Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Australia Needs More State Fossil Emblems

By John Long

Official fossil emblems connect a state to its deep past, yet only two Australian states have them.

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New South Wales has officially announced that its state fossil emblem will be the Devonian fish Mandageria fairfaxi, a sarcopterygian (lobe-finned fish) that grew to nearly 2 metres long. It was a voracious predator whose remains have been found at the famous Canowindra fossil site. It joins Western Australia as only the second state in Australia to have formally proclaimed a fossil emblem.

In the USA every state has an official state fossil emblem as well as floral and faunal emblems. The fossil emblem embodies the importance of understanding the evolution of the region in question, and emphasises that teaching evolution is vital. The first states to embrace this concept were Louisiana, Maine and Georgia in 1976.

Australia’s first state fossil emblem, the Devonian fish Mcnamaraspis kaprios from the Gogo sites in Western Australia, was proclaimed in 1995. I know it well as I found and named the fossil but wasn’t the person who selected it as the emblem. That was a democratic process put in place by the Western Australian government. The idea came from the Dianella-Sutherland Primary School, which heard about the US state fossil emblems and lobbied the WA government. Next came a public call for suitable fossils that would fit the bill.

At the time I served as Curator of Vertebrate Palaeontology at the Western Australian Museum. My job was to provide...

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