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Fossil File

Fossil File

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.

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.

So You Wanna Become a Palaeontologist, Kid?

By John Long

Some career advice for young people to get a start in palaeontology.

As a boy aged 7 years, I collected fossils from various sites around Melbourne and dreamed of one day becoming a real palaeontologist. I knuckled down to study, scrapping through the compulsory maths, physics and chemistry units in matriculation (Year 12) in order to win a place in a university Science degree.

Developing Fossil Sites for Education and Employment

By John Long

A combination of active scientific research and a thriving local tourism industry is the model that many countries can adapt to protect and develop their most significant fossil sites.

I am writing this column from Quebec, Canada, where I’ve been working with colleagues on fossil specimens that come from the World Heritage fossil site at Miguasha in the beautiful Gaspe Peninsula. This site is Devonian age, about 380 million years old, and has a diverse fauna of very well-preserved fish and plant fossils.

Lessons from the Chinese Palaeontology Boom

By John Long

Lack of funding and technical support ensures that many significant Australian fossil specimens will continue to gather dust.

Recently I visited the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology (IVPP) in Beijing, China, the world’s single largest institution for the study of ancient vertebrate fossils. Housing some 500 employees, including around 60 scientists with PhD degrees, the only larger institution worldwide for palaeontological research is the one set up for the study of fossil invertebrates and plants in southern China, the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, which I’m told is about 20% larger than IVPP.

The Birth of Filter-Feeding Giants

The Cambrian seas have a new apex predator with the discovery of one of the earliest arthropods measuring twice as large as the previous heavyweight champion.

A Gold Medal for the World’s Oldest Life

By John Long

To enable science to match media coverage of sport, maybe we need to award some gold medals.

It’s funny how many sporting metaphors are used in everyday speeches by politicians or journalists. Sport gets much higher billing than science any day in any general news media. One just has to buy a newspaper (yes, the hard copy version) and note the last few pages are covered in sporting news or there is a separate lift-out section dedicated to sport.

An Amazing Year of Record-Breaking Fossil Discoveries

By John Long

The past year has seen some literally enormous palaeontological discoveries, from the dinosaur with the largest BMI to an ichthyosaur that left land to live like a dolphin.

While it seems that most of the world record-holding living animals have been well and truly discovered, the prehistoric world continues to amaze us each year with new finds that break long-held records, or fill in major missing gaps in evolutionary sequences.

Last year saw the announcement of the largest known dinosaur for which a body mass can be accurately calculated. Dreadnoughtus schrani was a sauropod dinosaur that lived around 77 million years ago in Argentina, and reached about 26 metres long and possibly weighed up to 59.3 tonnes (Scientific Reports 4/9/14).

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.

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.

The Mystery of Deinocheirus Solved

By John Long

With gigantic arms, a beer belly, a humped back and a duck bill, Dinocheirus is one bizarre dinosaur.

Australian World Heritage Fossil Sites Celebrate 20 Years

By John Long

The renowned fossil sites at Riversleigh and Naracoorte celebrate a milestone this month.

This month celebrates the 20th anniversary of the proclamation of Australia’s joint nomination of the World Heritage Fossil Mammal Sites at Riversleigh in Queensland and Naracoorte in South Australia. The nomination came jointly as both sites together provide a deep time perspective on how Australia’s unique modern mammal fauna came into existence.