Victorian Marine Fossils

Marine rocks in Victoria

By far the most common kinds of fossils found in Victoria are those of marine creatures, which are found in nearly all of the rocks that were deposited in the sea in past ages. The oldest of these marine rocks in Victoria were deposited during the Palaeozoic Era, 545 to 251 million years ago (mya). They form the highlands of the state, extending from the Grampians in the west to East Gippsland, and also occur in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. Much younger rocks, formed between 65 and 1.78 mya during the Tertiary Sub-era, also contain marine fossils. These younger rocks occur along almost the entire southern coast of Victoria as far east as Orbost, including the eastern side of Port Phillip Bay and in the Geelong area.

Photo of a fossil sea star (Eoactis stachi)

Fossil sea star (Eoactis stachi), Late Silurian (c. 420 million years old), Melbourne, Victoria
Photographer: Rodney Start. Source: Museum Victoria

Common types of fossils found in Victoria

Fossils of many different kinds of marine animals can be found in Victoria. Some of these represent kinds of animals that are now extinct, but others belong to groups that are still common and familiar in the sea today.

Fossil trilobite Trilobites are crustacean-like animals that were one of the most numerous and successful marine creatures of the early and middle Palaeozoic. In Victoria, trilobites are common only in middle Palaeozoic rocks in central Victoria.
Fossil brachiopod Brachiopods are a type of marine shellfish with the soft body enclosed in a pair of shells that can be opened to enable the animal to feed and breathe. Living brachiopods still exist in the sea but they are not often seen. Fossil brachiopods, however, are very common in middle Palaeozoic rocks of central Victoria and in Tertiary limestones.
Fossil coral Corals were abundant during the Palaeozoic Era but they belonged to different types than those living today. Their fossils occur in Palaeozoic siltstones and limestones in central Victoria. Corals found in Tertiary limestones and clays, such as around Mornington, are of the same type as living forms.
Fossil echinoderm Echinoderms, like corals, are still in existence and include the familiar sea urchins and sea stars as well as less familiar groups. Sea stars, crinoids and some extinct groups of echinoderms are found in the middle Palaeozoic rocks of central Victoria. Sea urchins are common in Tertiary limestones, for example at Torquay and Lakes Entrance.
Fossil mollusc Molluscs are represented in present-day seas by such groups as the bivalves, which include clams, mussels and scallops; the gastropods, or snails; and the cephalopods, including octopus, squid and cuttlefish. Fossil molluscs are very common in Tertiary rocks in Victoria but also occur in Palaeozoic rocks.
Fossil bryozoan Bryozoans are a group of mostly marine animals living in frond- or coral-like or colonies. They are very common today but many people mistake them for seaweed or corals. Bryozoans were so abundant during the Tertiary that some limestones are made up entirely of their broken skeletons. Fossil bryozoans also occur in rocks of Palaeozoic age.
Fossil grapolite Graptolites are extinct marine animals that formed twig-like colonies composed of one or more branches. They are one of the most important groups of fossils for dating early Palaeozoic rocks. Rocks of this age in central and eastern Victoria contain one of the richest graptolite assemblages in the world.

Visitor Information

Common species of marine invertebrate fossils from Victoria are exhibited in the Marine Fossil Drawers in the Melbourne Museum Discovery Centre.

Further Reading

Clarkson, E. N. K 1998. Invertebrate palaeontology and evolution, 4th edition. Blackwell Science, Oxford. [University-level textbook.]

Fortey, R. 2002. Fossils: the key to the past, 3rd edition. Natural History Museum, London.

Walker, C. & Ward, D. 1992. Fossils. Collins Eyewitness Handbooks, Harper Collins, Sydney.

Comments (13)

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Majed Islam 24 August, 2009 20:26
I am fond of collecting fossils and I found a similar one with slight difference that mine is graved into a small round stone
santo sullivan 24 August, 2009 20:51
Hi im a uni studenty studying geology i have found a fossil of a Placotrochus magnus i think i was wondering where i can go to get it verified
Discovery Centre 25 August, 2009 15:54

The Discovery Centre actually organises identification of objects and specimens relating to our collection areas of Science, Indigenous Cultures and Australian History and Technology. You can do it through the website by submitting a form for an identification request after you have read the guidelines. We'll send a photo off to one of our resident fossil experts to identify for you. 

Robert Fry 25 January, 2010 09:47
My 6yr old grandson is totally fixated on fossils and has a great skill in finding them.Thankyou for this site as it has assisted me in identifing some of his finds.Is there a book on Australian fossils that a 6yr old would find helpful.
Discovery Centre 26 January, 2010 11:43

Hello Robert, what a great interest for your grandson to have! Whilst your local library or bookshop would be able to assist you with a greater range of books, you might like to look at the following:
"Gogo Fish!", Dr John Long. "Australia's Dinosaurs", Andrew Plant. "Amazing Facts about Australian Dinosaurs", Scott Hucknell, Dr Alex Cook. These last two are dinosaur-specific, but also include some information about plant and marine fossils. Best of luck!

Stefain-Jayne Humphris 15 August, 2011 11:47
I very much strongly love this website. I found it so usefull for my schoolwork.
In 25 March, 2012 00:13
We are going to travel via Great Ocean Road soon. My husband is fascinated by dinosaurus an fossils, however, we never practiced fossil collection. Could you please advise what we should do if we will occasionally find a fossil or a fossil like object somewhere on our way? Probably it sounds naive to think that it is possible to find a fossil occasionally, but I just would like to find out what to do and is it legal to collect it? are there any cases when we have to inform someone?
Kevin butler 24 June, 2013 15:43
I have found an upper jaw incl teeth at kilmore east of an marsupial like animal At a place I only find trilobites Happy to send a photo if I could have an address / mobile no pls
aaron 30 January, 2014 18:46
colleen 13 July, 2014 17:31
hi i found a fossil today that has a fossil of a worm in have been trying to find out what it is but have had no luck where can i go to have it look at plz
Discovery Centre 14 July, 2014 13:43
Hi Colleen! Bring it in to the Melbourne Discovery Centre, and we'll give you a receipt and get a fossil expert to have a look at it for you. Or, if you can't get here in person, you can submit an online enquiry (with a good clear photo - ID may not be possible from photographs alone, however).
Wanda Kidman 27 March, 2017 13:02
I found some Ambergris washed up on beach also a pale green crystallised rock but not sure who to contact
Discovery Centre 27 March, 2017 14:18
Hello Wanda - do feel free to bring your specimens for identification in to the Melbourne Museum's Discovery Centre, located on the lower ground floor. We are staffed Tuesday-Saturday, 10-4.30pm - access to the centre is currently closed off, but Museum Administration can contact the  Discovery Centre to come and receive items for assessment.
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