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Scientists unearth massive fossil site

Scientists unearth massive fossil site

Thu June 21, 2012 9:13pm

A HUGE fossilised collection of prehistoric animals, including giant wombat-like marsupials, may explain how they came to be extinct, scientists in southwest Queensland say.

Queensland Museum and Griffith University paleontologists, working with Outback Gondwana Foundation (OGF) volunteers, made the find near Eulo, 360 kilometres west of St George.

OGF chief Anita Milroy says more than 50 skeletons of diprotodons, a giant prehistoric mammal, had been found and are believed to be about 200,000 years old.

Other "megafauna" unearthed include a big lizard related to the modern day komodo dragon, an extinct freshwater fish, giant kangaroos and a giant forest wallaby.

Ms Milroy says smaller marsupials, fish and frogs were also found among the fossil "treasure trove", indicating the animals may have gathered together for a reason.

"It looks like it was one of the last remaining sources of water when the extinction happened of all this fauna," she said.

The largest diprotodon fossil uncovered, nicknamed Kenny, has a 70cm lower jaw and is expected to be about three metres tall when fully reconstructed.

Ms Milroy said the area, which had not been studied before, was home to the largest collection of "megafauna" fossils anywhere in Australia.

More testing is needed to work out how old they are.

Property owner Rob Newsham said his family had been aware of the fossils since a researcher found them in the 1960s, but it was only recently that anyone became interested in them.

"We used to walk around the property all the time, hoping to find a bone or a tooth or something else that might have been uncovered when it flooded," he said.

"We always suspected there were a lot of fossils and we knew it would surprise the scientists."  

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