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Fossils

Australia’s first genuine dinosaur bone was discovered at Eagle’s Nest, near Inverloch on 7th May 1903 by the Scottish geologist W. H. Ferguson. It was a claw, from a medium sized carnivorous dinosaur. For many years nothing more was found, until in 1978 when Tim Flannery, then a Science student at Monash University, decided to revisit the site. 

In company with his cousin John Long and geologist Rob Glenie, they started finding more bones in the same area. Their discovery led to a systematic search of the Bass Coast, (east of Melbourne) during which they found over 30 fossil bones and discovered important new sites including The Arch at Kilcunda and The Punchbowl, near San Remo. 

Further prospecting by Lesley Kool, Nick Van Klaveren and Mike Cleeland particularly during the 1990's, resulted in the discovery and excavation of several more sites including the celebrated Dinosaur Dreaming site at Inverloch, and has led to the total number of fossil bones from the Bass Coast exceeding 20,000. 

The Victorian fossils are known as “Polar Dinosaurs” because they lived at a time when their habitat was relatively close to the South Pole.  The South Pole at the time of the dinosaurs was not as it is now, however.  It was covered with lush, green trees, and relatively warm, by today's standards.

Sauropods, the classic “longneck” dinosaurs similar to Brontosaurus have been discovered in Queensland, but never in Victoria. This could be because Victoria at that time was so far south, it was within the Antarctic circle. By the time the blood gets all the way to the extremities of the head and tail of a cold blooded sauropod, it is at risk of actually freezing, and scientists suspect this could explain why these creatures have never been found in Victoria.

In addition to the dinosaurs, marine reptiles including plesiosaurs and pliosaurs are known from the Victorian Cretaceous, as well as flying reptiles such as pterosaurs. Several of these species are yet to be formally described (studied and identified) by palaeontologists.

Keep exploring our site to learn a little about finding, extracting, and the preparartion of fossils.

Finding Fossils

So how do we find fossils?


Well, the best way is to start where other fossils have been found. In Australia there are plenty of places where incredible fossils of dinosaurs and their footprints have been discovered including the well known big theropods and sauropods, plus the marine reptiles and the flying pterosaurs.

So the best approach is to do your research before starting out. Plus, you need to know the rules about whether you are allowed to dig for fossils in various places, and what to do if you find something.

In Victoria there are two main areas where dinosaur fossils can be found and they both feature rocks from the Cretaceous period, which is from 145 to 66 million years ago.

The Bass Coast from Wonthaggi to Inverloch has been dated at 126 million years, and the Otway Coast along the Great Ocean Road goes back to 106 million years. Those areas are coastal, which has advantages and disadvantages.

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Fossil Extraction

Fossils are rarely complete skeletons, the majority are fragments that are found embedded in rocks or in a slab of a cliff, or just a loose rock. It is up to the paleontologist to make an informed estimate on what the find may be.

When a fossil is found lodged in a cliff or the shoreline, it needs to be reported.  ou can do this through the Bunurong Environment Centre at Inverloch, or directly to the Melbourne Museum team  They will obtain a permit so that an expert palaeontologist can go and safely collect it.

On those rare occasions when an articulated skeleton is found, other methods will be employed.

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Fossil Preparation

The preparation of a fragment or whole bones is a very time consuming process. To expose the fossilized material it is necesery to have the right tools.  Preparation is a very delicate and important job and it needs to take in consideration what kind of rock the fossil is in.

Full skeletons take years to be prepared.

It is certainly exciting as a preparator to be the first person to uncover the specimen that has not seen the light of day for tens of millions of years!

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General Information

For more general information about fossils in Australia, and Victoria in particular, explore this section.

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