MV Blog


Prehistoric marine life in Australia’s inland sea

by Melanie Raymond
Publish date
2 September 2015
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Cover of Prehistoric marine life in Australia’s inland sea
Cover of Prehistoric marine life in Australia’s inland sea
Source: Museum Victoria
One hundred million years ago, Australia was not so much a continent, as a series of islands interconnected by vast shallow waterways. In place of our central deserts, lay great expanses of water, the legendary ‘inland sea’ once sought by European explorers a hundred million years too late. The Eromanga Sea teemed with a rich and diverse fauna and flora which left their remains to fossilise on the bottom of the ancient sea floor.

We didn’t end up using this blurb but it did catch my interest. Danielle Clode, a science writer and previous Thomas Ramsay Fellow at Museum Victoria, sent it to me as part of her sales pitch for a new title. That title, now called Prehistoric marine life in Australia’s inland sea, has just been published. It is the third book in the Museum Victoria Nature series.

The first book was Tom Rich’s Polar Dinosaurs and the second, Danielle Clode’s Prehistoric giants. The megafauna of Australia. The latter was shortlisted in the prestigious CBCA awards in 2008 and continues to be a bestseller for Museum Victoria Publishing.

Platypterygius australis: Ichthyosaur Platypterygius australis skull and rostrum specimen. An extinct ichthyosaur from the Cretaceous period.
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria

Prehistoric marine conjures up the vanished world of the Aptian/Albian period. Written for a young audience who may never have heard of the Eromanga Sea, Prehistoric marine introduces us to a foreign landscape and its inhabitants. Monstrous Kronosaurus queenslandicus ruled the shallow inland seas, and other sharp-toothed predators, including sharks and ichthyosaurs, cruised around, looking for prey. On the sea floor, there was also an abundance of life, including the impressive Tropaeum imperator, an ammonite which measured up to 75 cm wide and was mistaken for a tractor tyre when first discovered.

Platypterygius australis cartilage muscle overlay Reconstruction of platypterygius australis, an ichthyosaur from the Cretaceous period with cartilage muscle overlay showing developmental process of drawings.
Image: Peter Trusler
Source: Peter Trusler

You can hear Danielle talk about her book with Robyn Williams on ABC Radio National's Science Show.

  Artist's interpretation of a Kronosaurus catching a pterosaur Prehistoric marine creature Kronosaurus (similar to a crocodile) leaping out of the ocean to catch a pterosaur
Image: Tor Sponga
Source: Bergens Tidende

New Indigenous culture books

by Kate C
Publish date
7 November 2011
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Each year, the MV library develops a particular area of the book collection. This year it's the Indigenous section receiving attention, which will assist the team working on the redevelopment of Bunjilaka and the researchers of the Indigenous Cultures Department. Over 50 books, many of them out-of-print and very rare, were purchased from Grants Bookshop for an average price of less than a modern day paperback. With increasing costs for interlibrary loans, purchasing our own copies for MV makes sound financial sense, too.

Display of new Indigenous culture books Display in the MV Library of the newly-aquired books about Indigenous culture and history.
Source: Museum Victoria

Research associate Jason Gibson talked about the nature of these books, some of which date back to the 1940s. "They often take a classical anthropological perspective, that you don't see much of any more. There were problems with this approach but in terms of the detail captured, it's fantastic." He explained that these books were largely written by non-Indigenous anthropologists attempting an objective, scientific analysis of Indigenous people. "It was often the first time Indigenous languages, traditions and cultural practices had been documented in written form and therefore these texts have become very important for Native Title research as well as museum studies."

Librarian Leonie Cash laments the closure of many of Melbourne's second-hand bookshops that makes these books even harder to obtain. Even now when books are becoming available in electronic form, physical books are still popular for researchers who spend much of their day looking at a computer screen and would prefer to read from paper.

Jason, Emma and Rose with new books L-R: Jason Gibson, Hayley Webster and Rose Bollen looking at the new books.
Source: Museum Victoria

The books are on display in the MV Library for staff to peruse and borrow. Of particular interest is the acquisition of the first edition of an American Philosophical Society publication of 1941 Aboriginal Australian String Figures, including string figure illustrations of the bandicoot, python, boomerang, and canoe.


Indigenous Cultures collections

MV Blog: Following the travelling Tjitingalla

About this blog

Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.