Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

The Magic of Finding Fossils

By John Long

As a child, John Long’s interest in fossils was first stoked when he discovered a trilobite. As an adult he discovered that the species was unknown to science at the time.

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

Many people like to collect fossils as a hobby. It not only gets you outside in the fresh air but you might just make a spectacular discovery that has major scientific implications.

I began collecting fossils in 1964 aged seven, with a discovery of a small fossil that seemed rather insignificant at the time. I accompanied my school classmate and his father to a small quarry in Lilydale, Victoria, where we collected trilobites, crinoid stems and brachiopods. I still remember the day well as I cracked open a rock and saw an impression of a trilobite tail staring at me, exposed to daylight for the first time in more than 400 million years.

Collecting fossils grew into an obsession. My collection grew over the years as I was fortunate to visit many other sites throughout Victoria. My father sometimes drove me and my friends to out-of-town sites to collect. My collection grew and contained, among other things, a giant cowry shell from near Mornington, more than 20 different species of fossil shark teeth from Beaumaris and sites near Geelong, fossil kangaroo bones from the western districts lakes, and some complete Cretaceous fishes from Koonwarra.

My obsession with fossils eventually turned into a career. After finishing my university studies and 6 years of postdocs around Australia I eventually landed a job as Curator of Vertebrate Palaeontology at the...

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