Articles on Australian Fossils

The articles listed below were all published in the Queensland produced magazine "Metal, Stone and Glass" from 2006 to 2013.
The email contact for this magazine is metalstoneglass@gmail.com

The Brisbane Valley - a Source of Plant Fossils

This article focuses on some of the Cycadophyta fossils, highlights the various forms that they take and offers the challenge of determining what the plants might have looked like when they were growing back in Triassic times. This group of fossil plants is commonly referred to as cycads. The present day cycad plants are characterised by major trunks with large fronds extending from the top of them. It is the fronds, with leaves or pinnae extending out from a central stem or rachis, which have been most widely preserved as fossils in the Esk region.

Article "The Brisbane Valley: a Source of Plant Fossils" was published in "Metal, Stone and Glass", Vol 37, Summer 2006.

Length of article = 1323 words

Number of coloured images = 17

Individual Leaf Fossils from the Brisbane Valley

This article shows some of the larger leaf fossils and highlights the various forms that they take. The larger leaf fossils of the Brisbane Valley occur almost exclusively as individual leaves not attached to any structure. Many of these leaves have the basic pattern of a prominent central area with numerous lateral veins radiating out at high angles.

Article "Individual Leaf Fossils from the Brisbane Valley" was published in "Metal, Stone and Glass", Vol 38, Autumn 2007.

Length of article = 1211 words

Number of coloured images = 18

Fossil Leaf Clusters from the Brisbane Valley

This article examines some different types of plant fossils from the Brisbane Valley of south east Queensland that have clusters of leaves radiating from a central point.

Article "Fossil Leaf Clusters from the Brisbane Valley" was published in "Metal, Stone and Glass", Vol 40, Spring 2007.

Length of article = 1232 words

Number of coloured images = 20

Horsetail Fossils from the Brisbane Valley

Horsetails is the name given to a group of columnar plants that are thought to have grown in large numbers around swampy areas. They are quite common in the fossil beds of the Brisbane Valley of south east Queensland. Their basic form is that of an upright columnar plant with a thick, segmented stem and leaflets arising from the junction of segments. Running vertically up the plant are long parallel, clearly defined parallel ribs. Across the plant are depressions that mark the junctions of the segments that make up the main stem.

Article "Horsetail Fossils from the Brisbane Valley" was published in "Metal, Stone and Glass", Vol 41, Summer 2007.

Length of article = 1170 words

Number of coloured images = 18

A Brisbane Valley Fossil Plant

Plant fossils are most frequently found as fragments of the original plant hence it is often difficult to piece together the whole plant. This article examines one such fossil plant. No complete specimen has been found but fossil specimens of parts of the plant abound in one location. By comparing the common elements of the plant on these specimens a fuller picture of the plant can be determined. One complicating factor here is that there is considerable variation in some of the main features of the plant indicating that what looks like parts of different plants or species actually belongs to the same plant species.

Article "A Brisbane Valley Fossil Plant" was published in "Metal, Stone and Glass", Vol 42 , Autumn 2008.

Length of article = 1444 words

Number of coloured images = 28

A Fossilised Vegetation Ball

"What on earth is this", was the comment as the cover was thrown back from the rear of the truck. There lay a couple of enormous lumps of whitish solid rock which this intrepid fossicker had somehow managed to heave up into his truck. A few small pieces had broken off in the transportation process and what did they reveal; bits and pieces of petrified vegetation all compacted together. They were preserved as a tangled web in a dark grey and brown rock interspersed with small deposits of chalcedony.

Article "A Fossilised Vegetation Ball" was published in "Metal, Stone and Glass", Vol 43, Winter 2008.

Length of article = 1028 words

Number of coloured images = 18

What foliage belongs to what?

The identification of past flora has been based heavily on the form of the foliage found as fossil remains and attempts to link these to fossil stems and fructifications. A major complication in this process is the fact that some fossil plants can have a variety of different leaves within the one plant specimen. This is particularly so with the ferns and seed ferns. A significant problem arises when plant fossil finds are fragmentary. If a small fossil specimen of foliage is found it may appear to quite different from another small specimen yet they could quite possibly be part of the same fossil plant species. This article illustrates the variations in foliage found in individual fossil plants in Triassic beds in south-east Queensland.

Article "What foliage belongs to what?" was published in "Metal, Stone and Glass", Vol 45, Summer 2008.

Length of article = 1083 words

Number of coloured images = 17

Fossil Ginkgo Leaves

The leaves of the modern ginkgo show considerable variation in form. This is also believed to be the case with the fossil ginkgos. The basic form is that of a fan shape. The fan shape in the fossil specimens ranges from an entire form to various degrees of division into radiating fingers. The images shown here are of fossils recovered from the same location in south east Queensland.

Article "Fossil Ginkgo Leaves" was published in "Metal, Stone and Glass", Vol 46, Autumn 2009.

Length of article = 612 words

Number of large coloured images = 6

The Coral Reef Puzzle

The pieces of coral photographed here come from a reef that is not on the coast nor is it even under water. It is a few hundred million years old and is exposed about 100 km inland. It is a fossil coral reef system preserved in pieces of limestone rock. By taking images of the dull grey coloured rock and adding colour to them it is possible to get an answer to an interesting question. What might the original coral reef have looked like when it was a living structure? Imagine the following images as coloured pieces of living coral standing up in some warm ocean water.

Article "The Coral Reef Puzzle" was published in "Metal, Stone and Glass", Vol 47, Winter 2009.

Length of article = 810 words

Number of coloured images = 19

Fertile Fossil Ferns

In fossil ferns fertile fronds and leaves are commonly preserved. This article discuses a range of fertile fronds from different fern fossils found in Triassic deposits in south east Queensland. The specimens contain small clumps, spots or patches that look like they are stuck onto the underside of leaflets. These areas are where the spores are found. The spores grow inside casings called sporangia. They often clump together into what are called sori. Sometimes these sori follow the fern leaf veins in lines and sometimes they are clusters set into indentations in the underside of the leaflets.

Article "Fertile Fossil Ferns" was published in "Metal, Stone and Glass", Vol 48, Spring 2009.

Length of article = 994 words

Number of coloured images = 16

Trilobite Impressions from Western Queensland

In Australia, trilobite remains have been found in various locations including just west of Mt Isa. The specimens used in this article to illustrate some of the features of trilobites all come from this sedimentary deposit and were collected over thirty years ago. This was a marine deposit containing not only trilobite remains but also the remains of shells. Trilobite fossils are predominantly remains of their exoskeletons. As each individual grew it would shed the exoskeleton and grow a new one to match its increasing size. In this moulting process the exoskeleton could remain intact and be preserved in its entirety but more commonly it would break apart into its three main sections or even smaller pieces.

Article "Trilobite Impressions from Western Queensland" was published in "Metal, Stone and Glass", Vol 49, Summer 2009.

Length of article = 1203 words

Number of coloured images = 19

A Fossil Adventure at Richmond, Queensland

Fossil ichthyosaur bones, extinct turtle jaws, belemnites, bivalves, coprolites and trace fossils (worm casts and arthropod tracks) - all from a morning’s searching at Richmond, north Queensland. Wow! And you can take them home for your collection!

Richmond would have to be one of the most remarkable and accessible fossil sites on the planet. A well-organised local ‘industry’ is built around these fossil riches and provides the collector with the best of experiences.

 

Article "A Fossil Adventure at Richmond, Queensland" was published in "Metal, Stone and Glass", Vol 50, Autumn 2010.

Length of article = 1031 words

Number of coloured images = 10

 

 

Am I a Mud Nest?

Some decades ago a few solid round balls were found in Eocene shale beds in central Queensland and they exhibited characteristics similar to those of the South Australian weevil cases. The question to be explored is whether they could also be the pupal cases of a weevil of some kind or of a related organism. No literature that could answer this question has been found.

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I’m a Jigsaw Puzzle

A member of the Gatton Lapidary Club found a small petrified log while digging in her garden but was only able to recover the log as six separate segments. She decided to put these pieces on display in a jumbled order and challenge children to reassemble them in their correct order just like a jigsaw puzzle. Not content just to entertain but also to educate she wrote a short story which is displayed near the puzzle pieces. Children can not only touch and feel the transformation of part of a tree into stone but they can read about it and begin to understand one of the fascinating aspects of historical geology.

Article "A Fossil Adventure at Richmond, Queensland" was published in "Metal, Stone and Glass", Vol 51, Winter 2010.

Length of article = 612 words

Number of coloured images = 8

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Article "A Fossil Adventure at Richmond, Queensland" was published in "Metal, Stone and Glass", Vol 51, Winter 2010.

Length of article = 199 words

Number of coloured images = 2

 

BY THE OLD SEA-SIDE

A friend in Brisbane had told us about fossil shells along the main highway just over the SA border. As we rolled along I kept my eyes peeled around Roe Plains, Madura.

The shells in the area are mostly mollusc (around 265 species) but there are many other marine invertebrates present in this area – foraminifer (particularly the large discoidal Marginopora), bryozoans (Densipora is quite common), corals, brachiopods, annelids, arthropods and echinoderms.

Article "By the Old Sea-side" was published in "Metal, Stone and Glass", Vol 52, Spring 2010.

Length of article = 523 words

Number of coloured images = 12

Coprolites from Australia

Coprolites are pieces of fossilised dung left by creatures which lived in the past. Some of them are from land creatures and others are from marine creatures. The sizes of coprolites vary greatly and are influenced greatly by the size of the being creating them. Coprolites may assume different shapes and sizes. This article shows four different Australian coprolites and illustrates some of the many variations.

Article "Coprolites from Australia" was published in "Metal, Stone and Glass", Vol 53, Summer 2010.

Length of article = 931 words

Number of coloured images = 13

 

Thalassina anomala - A Fossil Mud Lobster

Fossils of the mud lobster, Thalassina anomala, have been collected over the years from various locations in the northern coastal regions of the Northern Territory and Queensland. Being a crustacean, Thalassina anomala has an exoskeleton which it sheds through its stages of growth. It is this hard outer form of lobsters from past times which forms the basis of the fossils that are now found. The full exoskeleton is rarely found fully preserved and most often the pieces are encased in quite solid sedimentary material which looks just like mud.

Article "Thalassina anomala - A Fossil Mud Lobster" was published in "Metal, Stone and Glass", Vol 54, Autumn 2011.

Length of article = 812 words

Number of coloured images = 12

Dicroidium – a Diverse Fossil Genus

The forked fossil leaves that are now referred to as Dicroidium have been found in numerous deposits in countries such as Australia, South Africa and Argentina. In Triassic times these countries were part of Gondwana, a super continent that gradually broke up. These forked fronds are very diverse in form and it is this diversity that poses the question of just how closely related to each other are these plants that are known almost entirely by small stems and foliage.

Article "Dicroidium – a Diverse Fossil Genus" was published in "Metal, Stone and Glass", Vol 55, Winter 2011.

Length of article = 1200 words

Number of coloured images = 13

Fossil Insect Wings - Hidden Treasures

Australia has thirteen significant fossil insect localities and four stand out as major producers, two in New South Wales around Sydney, one in Queensland around Ipswich and one in Gippsland, Victoria. Together they span the geological ages from Late Carboniferous through to Tertiary.

Article "Fossil Insect Wings - Hidden Treasures", Vol 56, Spring 2011.

Length of article = 1215 words

Number of coloured images = 10

Fossilisation and Jurassic Plants

Fossilisation of plants is most commonly illustrated by reference to petrified remains. South-east Queensland has large areas of coarse sedimentary deposits which contain a variety of plant remains. Coal and petrified wood are common but there are examples of other, less common, forms of fossilisation of woody material. There are impressions and cavities left in rock after the wood has decayed, casts made when various mineral compounds filled in such a cavity and casts made when the hollow centres of plants buried in the rock filled with inorganic material. All of these reveal information about the vegetation and environmental conditions in the past. The specimens used in this article to illustrate the various forms of wood fossilisation all come from a sedimentary layer south-east Queensland which contains fine to coarse-grained quartz sandstone, conglomerate, siltstone, claystone and ironstone.
 

Article "Fossilisation and Jurassic Plants", Vol 57, Summer 2011.

Length of article = 1121 words

Number of coloured images = 14

Fossil Teeth

It should be no surprise that teeth appear frequently in the fossil record. They are among the hardest parts of most creatures and so are less subject to decay by the elements of nature. Given that the animal world is diverse so it is that teeth of many different shapes and sizes are found as fossils and these give many clues about the form and lives of the host animals especially their feeding habits.

 Fossil teeth are commonly examples of replacement fossilisation. Over time various minerals percolate through the sediments and into the remains gradually replacing them and creating a solid fossil composed of minerals like silica, iron compounds, calcium carbonate and even, as in inland Australia, precious opal

Article "Fossil Teeth", Vol 58, Autumn 2012.

Length of article = 1080 words

Number of coloured images = 12

Fossil Foliage in Opalite

A bed of opalite underlying a layer of basalt in south east Queensland has been found with small leafy plants, reeds and a large leaf preserved in it along with the more common woody stems. The material seems to be part of a layer of vegetation such as may be found in a swampy area. It appears that the basalt has covered the vegetation and solutions rich in silica have come out of the basalt layer and made their way into the pieces of vegetation. In the opalised vegetation band there are also areas of massive opalite which have horizontal lines in them reflecting, most likely, a depositional origin in a horizontal position.

Article "Fossil Foliage in Opalite", Vol 59 Winter 2012.

Length of article = 947 words

Number of coloured images = 14

Volcanic Activity, Diatomite and Fossil Plant Material

In eastern Australia volcanic activity has helped preserve parts of plants. Throughout the Tertiary geological period volcanic activity was frequent in eastern Australia when various vents emitted lava and spewed out clouds of volcanic ash. These episodes have played a part in the formation of various fossils ranging from microscopic plant remains up to leaves the size of a dinner plate.

Article "Volcanic Activity, Diatomite and Fossil Plant Material", Vol 60, Spring 2012.

Length of article = 1007 words

Number of coloured images = 18

Fossil Shells – an easy start to Fossil Collecting

It should be no surprise that teeth appear frequently in the fossil record. They are among the hardest parts of most creatures and so are less subject to decay by the elements of nature. Given that the animal world is diverse so it is that teeth of many different shapes and sizes are found as fossils and these give many clues about the form and lives of the host animals especially their feeding habits.

 Fossil teeth are commonly examples of replacement fossilisation. Over time various minerals percolate through the sediments and into the remains gradually replacing them and creating a solid fossil composed of minerals like silica, iron compounds, calcium carbonate and even, as in inland Australia, precious opal

Article "Fossil Shells – an easy start to Fossil Collecting", Vol 61, Summer 2012.

Length of article = 1239 words

Number of coloured images = 18

A Fossilised Fossil?

Fossilised forest floor material typically consists of leaves, sticks and similar vegetation remains compacted into sedimentary beds. The specimens described here invoke suspicion of something different; the white pieces of rock are of varying shapes and sizes and look like they are broken fragments of some material. They are deposited at different angles and degrees of rotation with no distinctive pattern evident and more surprisingly some pieces have very straight edges as though they have broken along regular stress lines. All of these pieces are embedded in a sandstone matrix. It would not be possible for these pieces to be plant material fossilised in their present location unless they were deposited as chips.

Article "A Fossilised Fossil?", Vol 62, Autumn  2013.

Length of article = 1141 words

Number of coloured images = 15

Getting Close-up with Fossil Slabs

The detailed features of individual fossils are important is determining the nature of the original plant but the fossil slab can do more. It can show what plants grew in relatively close association with each other at a particular point in time and the geological processes that led to the fossil bed being formed. Critical to gaining this information is a very close examination of the features on a slab.

Article "A Fossilised Fossil?", Vol 64, Summer  2013.

Length of article = 1491 words

Number of coloured images = 19