Gemstones Down Under – 8 An Ancient Land of Fossils

Australia is a very ancient land with fossils dating from the PreCambrian, the oldest period of life on earth. The earliest life we know from the fossil record are microscopic fossil algae (Cyanophyta) and bacteria from 3000 million years ago.
Then there are stromatolites mats of blue-green algae which still occur today in Shark Bay WA. Then the earliest soft bodied organisms occur about 500 million years ago. The Ediacara fauna fossils are found in the Flinders Ranges near Leigh Creek.

These fossils were found in 1947 but it was 1957 before they were studied. They consist of jellyfish, soft corals, worms, arthropods and others up to 50cm long. There were no predators and their food consisted of floating plants and animals. Later some of the Ediacara fauna were found in Russia near the Artic Circle and also near the Black Sea. This confirms the reconstruction of the positions of continents in a belt along a paleo-equator at that time, a conclusion reached independently by geophysicists and paleogeographers. This area is now protected as a reserve.

In more recent times, when dinosaurs ruled the earth, in places their footprints can still be seen. One example is in Broome where the footprints were below low tide mark and have been recast above the tide line, so they can be seen. Unfortunately someone tried to steal the fossils, and the cast is all that remains. There are other fossil footprints in Queensland.

Still more recently, when Aboriginal people arrived in Australia, there were large examples of fauna still in existence and they were depicted in their art. The example I’ve shown is in Katherine Gorge, NT There are other examples in Arnhem Land. Most well known of the megafauna are Diprotodon and Thylacoleo or marsupial lion. Many examples came from caves in SA.
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Kakadu Dreaming
Kakadu Dreaming
By Christine A Deacon

Photo book