Fossil spiders, crickets, wasps, plants and fish, paint a clear picture of Australia’s rainforest ecosystems from 11 million to 16 million years ago during the Miocene.
Matthew McCurry, an archaeologist at the Australian Museum of Research, wrote a study of the site, published Friday in Scientific Advancement.
“The Miocene was when most modern Australian environments were created, so this fossil site is really the story of Australia’s origin.”
During the Miocene, low rainfall shrunk rainforests around the world, resulting in an increase in arid lands, the study said.
The site, known as McCurry, McGraths Flat, is located in the middle of the tablelands near the city of Gulkong, discovered by a local farmer who found decaying leaves in one of his fields.
McCurry and his colleagues visited the site seven times and excavated.
Stagnation of well-preserved fossils
“The fossils are amazingly beautiful, and through the microscope you can see the details of the surfaces of the wonderfully well-preserved fossils,” he said in an email.
“Features like individual cells and intracellular organs can be found. This level of detail allows us to say a lot about what these ecosystems look like.
For example, melanosomes found in fossil feathers mean that scientists can determine the color of feathers. In this case, they think they are dark brown to black.
McCurry said that this site of iron-rich rocks should be considered Lockerstadt, a German term used by archaeologists to describe an exceptional site with many perfectly preserved fossils.
Plants and organisms were destroyed when iron-rich groundwater seeped into an irrigation ditch.
McCurry said his favorite fossil was a kind of spider, the best preserved spider fossil ever found in Australia.
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