Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Fossil Sites Can Co-exist with Ecotourists

By John Long

Palaeo-ecotours could generate income for research and conservation at fossil sites.

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Last week I was collecting fossils in the spectacular country west of Alice Springs, in the West MacDonnell Ranges. Although we visited a well-known site discovered in 1973 by Dr Gavin Young of the Australian National University, we still found a significant number of important new specimens of ancient fishes of Devonian age. At least two are new to science, and one will certainly shed important light on the big evolutionary transition of fishes to land animals when it is prepared and described in detail.

While out there we also spent some time exploring for new sites in the region, which is home to a very thick succession of Devonian rocks that extends around the Amadeus Basin for hundreds of kilometres. From the air one sees the ranges snaking off in both directions as far as the eye can see. For me it’s a vast untapped resource for Australia’s future.

It staggers the imagination that so little of the Australian land mass has been thoroughly explored for fossils by expert eyes. If we take the MacDonnell Ranges, I would estimate that less than 1% has been thoroughly searched by palaeontologists for fossils, so there exists a huge potential for exciting scientifically groundbreaking new discoveries. Not only will such discoveries fill our museums with new specimens to attract tourist interest, but in some instances, where the fossils come from spectacular...

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