Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Fossil Treasures in Urban Australia

By John Long

Our biggest cities remain great places to search for fossils. Here are some tips about where to start looking.

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In mid-November our team of palae­ontologists were air-lifted in by helicopter to do fieldwork along the Genoa River in east Gippsland. It was a tough week, walking up and down the river to access outcrops of exposed rock, but it’s all part and parcel of the fossil research game.

While many fossils sites like this one are located in remote wilderness environments, and take a great deal of logistical planning to access, some fossil sites could be located right near where you live. Luckily, our two biggest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, are built upon fossiliferous sedimentary rocks that yield some extra­ordinary fossils from time to time. You just need know where to look, and how to recognise a good fossil.

Growing up in Melbourne I became interested in fossils at the age of 7. My first collecting trip was to an abandoned quarry near Lilydale to find marine fossils of Devonian age. Although this quarry is now filled in, and no longer accessible, several of Melbourne’s suburbs are home to good sites where anyone can collect excellent examples of fossils of various ages.

For example, along the Yarra River, just opposite the Studley Park Rd bridge, is an outcrop of shale where lower Silurian graptolites can be found. These represent the chitinous or collagenous tubes that small colonial creatures called pterobrachs once lived, floating around the ancient...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.