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DISPLAYING POSTS TAGGED: fossils (7)

For your eyes only

Author
by Simon C
Publish date
27 August 2014
Comments
Comments (5)

Simon is a presenter with MV’s Outreach Program. He travels all over metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria in one of our two Outreach vans with a dinosaur sticker on the side. You should give the vans a toot if you see them.

Quick! Look at this fossilised fern!

You are one of the first people to see it!

Fossil fern Fossil fern
Source: Museum Victoria
 

We at MV’s Outreach Program travel all over Victoria, bringing the MV’s collections to those who may not be able to get to one of our museums. During our presentations we encourage those we meet to explore and interact with the interesting things we have brought on the road that day.

fossil fern What the fossil looked like at the start of the day...
Source: Museum Victoria
 

This is one of the fossils we use in the Outreach Program’s Dinosaurs and Fossils presentation to communicate the idea of plants being an important part of the fossil record; it’s not all T. rex claws and Stegosaurus tail spikes. (Although, we do have a T. rex claw and a Stegosaurus spike, and they are pretty awesome.) We have fossils with leaves, seashells, bones and teeth for our audiences to handle and investigate.

During a kinder visit yesterday, one of our keen, young palaeontologists was testing his revolutionary new ‘drop’ technique and managed to unearth a new fossil running across and through one of the specimens.

Fossil fern Fossil fern enhanced with a large split thanks to the 'drop' technique pioneered in a kinder visit.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

As we gazed upon the freshly split rock back in the office, it occurred to us that only a handful of people – the probably-panicked kinder rock-dropper, our Outreach presenter, and a few of our team – have ever seen this fossil. So we thought it would be only right to bring you into the fold and invite you to be among the first humans to ever set eyes on it. The count currently stands at approximately six people, or seven if you include Kate who proofs the blog posts before they go out. I'm 004, but she’s lucky to get 007.

So get your peepers around these pictures and join our very exclusive club. We’re going to get jackets made!

Fossil fern Two is better than one, right?
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Dino Might

Author
by Wayne
Publish date
24 September 2013
Comments
Comments (3)

In the late 1970’s and early 80’s, I was absolutely mad for dinosaurs. Many hours were spent poring over my small stash of dinosaur books - I used to lie on our worn lounge room carpet, gawping at fantastical images of a vengeful Triceratops skewering a clearly outraged Tyrannosaurus in the thigh. To my young eyes, the image was evocative and powerful, albeit a little coy in the lack of blood.

By today’s standards, the picture is quite out-dated in the postures of the protagonists, but it was enough to get me hooked on these intriguing (and like me, clearly ill-tempered) animals. My chief interests wavered over the following teenage years – at times Dinosaur Jr. were more interesting than dinosaurs - but dinos were always there in one way or another, bubbling away as a topic of interest in the back of my mind.

Qantassaurus Melbourne Museum's animatronic reconstructions of the Victorian dinosaur Qantassaurus
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Fast forward to today, and much has changed – my son sees CGI footage of dinosaurs that are so plausible that there’s genuine confusion over what is actually real. To his generation, it will likely seem ludicrous that our generation thought of Velociraptor as anything other than fully feathered, but to those of us of the “Jurassic Park” generation, the leathery-skinned versions will be long remembered. Disappointingly, it seems that despite scientific consensus on their feathers, the upcoming Jurassic Park film will feature the old-school, oversized, nude ‘raptors. But I digress...

Velociraptor skull A model of the skull of Velociraptor - feathers not shown....just like in Jurassic Park (I might need to get over this)
Image: John Broomfield
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Unlike Hollywood, the scientific world’s understanding of dinosaur behaviour, posture and lifestyles has changed over the years. There are numerous examples of dinosaur displays in Museums that required modification to keep them up-to-date with current research. One of the quirks of palaeontology - the active study of long-since-inactive animals - is that we can never really ‘get it right...finally’; the most we can hope for is to ‘get it right...for now’. New discoveries drive new interpretations, leading to new theories; forever edging us closer to the truth, but the goalposts are constantly moving.  With dinosaurs, you can never ‘know’ everything - and I find that quite reassuring.

Of wreckage, ships and dinosaur bits

Author
by Wayne
Publish date
26 July 2013
Comments
Comments (3)

I stare out to sea, a heaving blur of grey with white-capped breakers. Two thoughts occur to me – why didn’t I bring better wet weather gear, and how did this place get this odd name?

view of the ocean A lovely, clear Autumn day onsite at Eric the Red
Image: Wayne Gerdtz
Source: Museum Victoria
 

I am perched on a rock in a sheltered pocket of the beach and near some dune vegetation, the wind and rain intermittently reminding me of my inadequate clothing. Between myself and the sea is a small pile of grey rock which I have been progressively breaking open with my hammer and chisel, searching for fossils. A few metres beyond some of my fellow crew are swinging sledgehammers at a large section of this rock, working on extracting more material to be broken down in a search for more fossils.

Digging at Eric the Red site A group of volunteer diggers brave the elements onsite at the 'Eric the Red' fossil dig.
Image: Wayne Gerdtz
Source: Museum Victoria
 

We are sitting on a beach near the Cape Otway Lighthouse in late March, close to a location called “Eric the Red”. The grey rock we are processing were once sediments laid down in a streambed in a rift valley over 100 million years ago. Amongst the grey sediments are seams of fossilised plant material, and very occasionally, fossil bones of animals that lived and died nearby.

A rock onsite at Eric the Red A rock ready for breaking onsite at Eric the Red - who knows what fossils it might yeild? As it turns out - none.
Image: Wayne Gerdtz
Source: Museum Victoria
 

I am here as part of a Museum Victoria field trip to collect these fossils; amongst me is a wonderfully diverse group of people; Palaeontology students and academics, Museum staff, amateur enthusiasts and assorted interested folk. Together, our aim is to process this Cretaceous rock, search for fossil bone, record our finds and package them carefully for their voyage to the Museum Victoria Palaeontology collections, housed in the Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton Gardens.

But...’Eric the Red’? What’s that name all about?

Weeks later, in the decidedly more dry and comfortable setting of the Museum, I decide to research why the site is called “Eric the Red”. It turns out that ‘Eric the Red’ was a vessel that was shipwrecked close to the shoreline of where we were digging; it ran aground in 1880 on a reef composed of the very same unit of rock we were excavating. The vessel was wrecked on the final leg of its otherwise uneventful voyage from New York to Melbourne, carrying a cargo of exhibits for the USA pavilion at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition – silverware, toys and pianos were among its diverse manifest. An interesting coincidence was that the ultimate destination for the Cargo of the Eric the Red was the Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton Gardens in Melbourne – this is also the destination for the fossils we were extracting from the site, as Museum Victoria’s Palaeontology Collections and laboratory are in the basement of the Exhibition Building.

Royal Exhibition Building The Royal Exhibition Building - the intended destination of the cargo of Eric the Red, and in part, home to Museum Victoria's Geoscience collections
Image: Museum Victoria
Source: Museum Victoria
  

Thankfully the fate of our diggers and our precious cargo was less tragic than that of the crew and cargo of the ‘Eric the Red’; the wreck resulted in the loss of life of some crew. You can read a full account of the wreck of “Eric the Red” on Heritage Victoria’s website, and also a the reportage of the tragedy in “The Argus” via Trove.

What does megafauna mean?

Author
by Wayne
Publish date
29 April 2012
Comments
Comments (2)

Your Question: What does the word megafauna mean?

The name megafauna means ‘big animals’, generally animals with a body mass of over 40 kilograms. Much of the time, megafauna is general term used to describe a particular group of large land animals that evolved millions of years after the dinosaurs became extinct. The extinction of dinosaurs 65 million years ago left a void of large land animals worldwide. Over millions of years, the surviving mammals, birds and reptiles evolved to include some very large animals. This group of megafauna was at their largest and most widespread during the Quaternary Period, in the last 2.5 million years.

  Diprotodon skull The skull and upper body of Diprotodon, the largest marsupial to have lived
Image: Michelle McFarlane
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Australia’s Quaternary megafauna were unique, and included giant marsupials such as Diprotodon, huge flightless birds such as Genyornis (a distant relative to today’s ducks and geese) and giant reptiles such as Varanus ‘Megalania’ (related closely to living goannas and the Komodo Dragon), all three of which are displayed in Melbourne Museum’s Dinosaur Walk exhibition - despite the fact these animals are not dinosaurs at all.

Thylacoleo skeleton The skeleton of Thylacoleo, the so-called marsupial 'lion'
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Some more examples of Australian megafauna are also on display in the adjoining exhibition at Melbourne Museum called 600 Million Years: Victoria evolves, such as the curious-looking Zygomaturus and Palorchestes (both relatives of Diprotodon), the carnivorous Thylacoleo (sometimes called a marsupial ‘lion’), and some megafaunal relatives of kangaroos and wallabies such as Protemnodon.

  Zygomaturus skeleton The skeleton of Zygomaturus, a Rhinoceros-like marsupial
Image: Benjamin Healley
Source: Museum Victoria
 

It is worth noting that not all megafauna are extinct – Australia has living megafauna in the form of Red and Eastern Grey Kangaroos and Saltwater Crocodiles, some of which are on display in the Wild: Amazing animals in a changing world exhibition, which is also in the Melbourne Museum Science and Life Gallery.

Got a question? Ask us!

Links:

Video, Studying Megafauna Fossils

Book, Prehistoric Giants: The Megafauna of Australia, published by Museum Victoria

Dinosaur Dreaming dig season opens

Author
by Lisa
Publish date
16 February 2012
Comments
Comments (1)

Lisa works in the Public Programs Department at Melbourne Museum but also volunteers in the Palaeontology Department and has been on several fossil digs.

Last weekend hailed the beginning of the annual Dinosaur Dreaming dig season at Inverloch in Victoria. The crew will spend the next three weeks searching for the fossils of animals including dinosaurs, mammals, turtles, freshwater plesiosaurs, fish and pterosaurs that lived on and around the floodplain and in the forests that existed in the area 120 million years ago.

We can only access the dig site while the tide is out far enough to expose the shore platform, and before we can start hunting for fossils we need to prepare the site. First we remove the sand with shovels, which is often a bit of a smelly job due to the bits of rotting seaweed that have washed into the hole (the name we give to the part of the site which is being worked at any given time) with the tide.

Preparing the fossil site dig Left: The crew removes sand, boulders and seaweed from on top of the rock layers. Right: John Wilkins and Dean Wright remove one of many large boulders from the dig site using a boulder extraction contraption John invented and built for us.
Image: Lisa Nink
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Next we use large chisels, crowbars and large drills to remove the overlying layer of sandstone. Once we have access to the fossil layer we can begin searching.

Some of the crew use large chisels and sledgehammers to remove large chunks of the fossil layer and the rest of the crew sit further up on the shore breaking these large rocks into walnut sized pieces in search of fossils.

Breaking rocks to find fossils Left: Travis Park uses a sledgehammer and chisel to remove a large chunk of fossil-bearing rock. Right: Gerry Kool uses a much smaller hammer and chisel to break down chunks of rock in search of fossils.
Image: Lisa Nink
Source: Museum Victoria
 

While the main aim of the dig is to find fossils, there is much more we can learn about the site. Dean Wright, a surveyor, and Doris Seegats-Villiers, a PhD candidate at Monash University, used a Leica Total Station to collect data which will be used to map geological features such as the different rock layers and fault lines. Dean plans to overlay this data onto a 3D map of the site he made last year and this information will assist scientists to better understand the geology of the site.

measuring geology of fossil site Dean Wright and Doris Seegats-Villiers taking data points which Dean will use to create a geologic map of the Flatrocks site.
Image: Lisa Nink
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Some of the interesting bones we have found so far this season:

dinosaur bones found at Inverloch Left: A cross-section through a dinosaur limb bone. Right: A cross-section through a dinosaur toe bone.
Image: Lisa Nink
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Links:

Dinosaur Dreaming blog

Infosheet: Dinosaur Dreaming - the Inverloch fossil site

Video: Dinosaur Dreaming

How to dig for dinosaurs

Author
by Lisa
Publish date
19 December 2011
Comments
Comments (7)

Lisa works in the Public Programs Department at Melbourne Museum but also volunteers in the Palaeontology Department and has been on several fossil digs.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to go on a dinosaur dig? Recently I went on a fossil-hunting adventure with a crew of 12 Museum Victoria staff and volunteers at a site called Eric the Red West in Cape Otway National Park.

120 million years ago this part of Australia was a river valley surrounded by forest. When the valley flooded, the remains of dinosaurs, small mammals, pterosaurs and forest plants (which became the coal that we see in the rock) were washed into the river. Eventually some of these bones, as well as those of animals such as fish and turtles that were living in the river, became covered by sand and mud. Over time the sediment became the grey sandstone that is exposed on beach today.

palaeontology fieldwork The crew heads down to the site.
Image: Lisa Nink
Source: Museum Victoria
 

When we first arrived on site we unloaded all of our gear and took it down onto the beach. Before we started any digging we prospected along the beach for fossils that were naturally exposed through weathering of the rock.

Prospecting and fossil finds Left: Lesley Kool and Mary Walters in search of fossils weathering out of the rock. | Right: Part of a dinosaur limb bone.
Image: Lisa Nink
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Next it was time to bring out the heavier equipment to remove rock and search for fossils that were still buried. We used large rock saws, small electric saws, sledgehammers and chisels to remove large chunks of the fossil-bearing rock.

tools to remove rock Travis removes sand from the rock with a shovel and Gerry removes chunks of rock with a sledge hammer and chisel.
Image: Liza Nink
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Removing fossils with tools. Left: David Pickering uses a small electric saw to delicately remove a fossil. | Right: Dr Erich Fitzgerald uses a larger rock saw to not so delicately (but precisely) remove a fossil.
Image: Lisa Nink
Source: Museum Victoria
 

When large chunks of rock have were removed and checked for fossils, the rest of the crew used smaller hammers and chisels to carefully break the rock down to sugar-cube sized pieces in search of tiny fossils.

Searching for fossils Left: David Pickering uses a hand lens to inspect a newly exposed fossil. | Right: Astrid patiently chisels away at rock in search of delicate fossils.
Image: Lisa Nink
Source: Museum Victoria
 

And we were well rewarded for our efforts:

Dr Erich Fitzgerald points to a fossil fish jaw Dr Erich Fitzgerald points to a fossil fish jaw he has just discovered in the rock.
Image: Lisa Nink
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Despite the rain and cold it was a wonderful experience. My friends and colleagues often ask me, 'doesn't it get boring breaking rocks on a beach all day?' but it never does. You never know when the next strike of your hammer and chisel may reveal a new fossil that hasn't seen the light of day for 120 million years. You never know, it may even be a completely new species.

You can see some of the fossils that have been found along Victoria's coastline in 600 Million Years: Victoria evolves at Melbourne Museum.

Links:

Dinosaur Dreaming Blog

MV Blog: Dinosaur Dreaming Dig

Infosheet: Inverloch fossil site

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

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