Reading the rocks of the Great Artesian Basin


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Reading the rocks of the Great Artesian Basin 

Since Australia’s first Cretaceous-age marine fossils were found near Hughenden, Queensland in 1864, the marine sediments of the Great Artesian Basin have yielded many spectacular fossils, including Kronosaurus, Muttaburrasaurus, Minmi and the Richmond Pliosaur. However, while the vertebrate fossils get most of the publicity, it is the invertebrate fossils that are the most numerous, the most easily collected and the most instructive as to the ecology of these ancient environments. Having now given up fossils belonging to over 250 species of invertebrates, the Great Artesian Basin has proved to be one of Australia’s most information-rich fossil deposits, and one of its most fascinating geological destinations.

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The discovery of fossils from the Great Artesian Basin followed closely behind the early expeditions of Walker and Landsborough in 1861 and 1862, when good grazing lands were identified in the north-east of the Basin. Soon after, Ernest Henry took up a pastoral run on the Flinders River which he named Hughenden and it was to be only a short time later that the first of the Basin’s fossils began to turn up. Local employees of Hughenden, Messrs Sutherland and Carson, sent a number of fossils including some bivalves and part of an ichthyosaur to Professor Frederick McCoy in Melbourne. The result was that in 1866 the first definite Cretaceous-age fossils were described from Australia.

AAOD Journal Issue 8 (2010) – pages 48 to 67 
By Dr Alex Cook 

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