My recent adventures in the mesozoic era (Part Two)

16 09 2017

Dino_signpost

From Winton, we headed further north to the towns of Richmond and Hughenden. Richmond has a long history of fossil-finding activity, with the discovery nearby of pliosaur bones identified in 1924 as belonging to a carnivorous marine reptile species (not technically a dinosaur, as these things are defined) new to science, Kronosaurus queenslandicus. This discovery is commemorated in the name of Richmond’s fossil museum, Kronosaurus Korner. It’s also celebrated in the town’s wheeliebins:

Kronosaurus_bin_cover

Most of the fossils on display in Kronosaurus Korner are marine reptiles (pliosaurs, elasmosaurs, ichthyosaurs, the odd turtle) and now-extinct marine invertebrates such as ammonites and belemnites. This is reflective of the prevailing fossil discoveries in the area, because up to around 90 million years ago, Richmond and environs were covered by an inland sea. The area’s sandstone is so rich in marine fossils that even a completely unskilled fossil fossicker such as yours truly was able, in one of the two heavily-picked-over public-access fossil hunting sites nearby, to find several recognisable bivalve fossils embedded in sandstone that also contained lengths of fossilised bone. (As specimens, the items I found were actually pretty uninspiring, but there’s nonetheless something rather special about finding for yourself something in a rock that, about a hundred million years ago, was identifiably part of a living organism …)

The Kronosaurus Korner’s collection of fossils is arguably the best of the entire dinosaur trail, though they’re perhaps not as impressively showcased as the selection at the Australian Age of Dinosaurs museum. (This is my excuse, in any case, for somehow not taking any useful pictures within the museum itself.) But I can definitely recommend the large K. queenslandicus fossil as well as the intricate fossils of the ichthyosaurs … I’d never appreciated, before seeing the museum’s ichthyosaur fossils, that a typical inchthyosaur paddle comprised well over a hundred small bones, squarish, flattened, and meshed together to form a shape useful for propulsion through water.

Minmi

Though there aren’t many true dinosaur fossils at Kronosaurus Korner, there are a few. There is, for example, a fossil of Australia’s best-known ankylosaur, Minmi paravertebra. (There’s also a bronze sculpture of same, shown in the photo above.)

From Richmond, we travelled to Hughenden, where the Flinders Discovery Centre and Museum houses several local and international fossil specimens (as well as items of a more recent historical vintage, showcasing the town’s pioneering days). Pride of place is given to a reconstructed skeleton of Muttaburrasaurus langdoni, a large (eight metre) ornithopod dinosaur:

Muttaburrasaurus_skeleton

This is as good a time as any to observe that not all bipedal dinosaurs were carnivorous—many, including Muttaburrasaurus and his cousins, were herbivores.

The above skeleton isn’t the only Muttaburrasaurus reconstruction in town, either. There’s also a skeletal bas-relief on the side of the museum, as well as a fleshed-out statue:

Muttaburrasaurus.jpg

The coloration is, of course, conjectural (though it is now known that at least one dinosaur species did indeed have the kind of countershading—i.e., lighter underbelly—seen here). And the signage on the building behind speaks truth: on the day we visited, it was undeniably very hot.

After Hughenden, our dinosaur adventure was finished, and it was then time to fly back home …

Pterosaur

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