A glimmer in the darkness: The Tingamarra fossil fauna
For terrestrial vertebrates, one of the biggest “dark ages” in the Australian fossil record is between about 90 million and 25 million years ago, a span of 65 million years for which we know very little. This is particularly frustrating because several fundamentally important events in Earth history occurred in this time window.
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Charles Darwin memorably compared the fossil record to a series of books, of which “only here and there a short chapter has been preserved, and of each page, only here and there a few lines.” Nowhere is this more true than in Australia: here the fossil record is filled not so much with gaps as yawning chasms, with spans of many millions of years for which we barely have a scrap of bone. There are several reasons for this. Compared with other continents, Australia is geologically very inactive; there has been little mountain building, so most fossil-bearing rocks have remained deep underground, never to see the light of day. Secondly, the vast size of Australia, and the remoteness of much of it from human settlement, means that many fossils exposed at the surface are never seen by human eyes, particularly eyes trained to recognise them as traces of ancient life. As a result, Australia has the most incomplete fossil record of any continent besides ice-covered Antarctica.
AAOD Journal Issue 13 (2015) – pages 58 to 67
By Dr Robin MD Beck
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