The Australian Fossil Mammal Sites Riversleigh (Queensland) and Naracoorte (South Australia), situated in the north and south respectively of [Australia]], are among the world’s 10 greatest fossil sites. They are a superb illustration of the key stages of evolution of Australia’s unique fauna.
Australia is regarded as the most biologically distinctive continent in the world, an outcome of its almost total isolation for 35 million years following separation from Antarctica. Only two of its seven orders of singularly distinctive marsupial mammals have ever been recorded elsewhere. Two of the world’s most important fossil sites, Riversleigh and Naracoorte, located in the north and south of Australia respectively, provide a superb fossil record of the evolution of this exceptional mammal fauna. This serial property provides outstanding, and in many cases unique, examples of mammal assemblages during the last 30 million years.
The older fossils occur at Riversleigh, which boasts an outstanding collection from the Oligocene to Miocene, some 10-30 million years ago. The more recent story then moves to Naracoorte, where one of the richest deposits of vertebrate fossils from the glacial periods of the mid-Pleistocene to the current day (from 530,000 years ago to the present) is conserved. This globally significant fossil record provides a picture of the key stages of evolution of Australia’s mammals, illustrating their response to climate change and to human impacts.
Riversleigh, in the north-west of Queensland, is Australia's most famous fossil site. The 100 km2 area has fossil remains of ancient mammals, birds and reptiles of Oligocene and Miocene age. The fossils at Riversleigh are rare because they are found in soft freshwater limestone which has not been compressed. This means the animal remains retain their three-dimensional structure. The area is located within the catchment of the Gregory River. Fossils were first noted to exist in the area in 1901. An initial exploration survey was conducted in 1963. Since 1976 the area has been the subject of systemic exploration. The site was co-listed with the Naracoorte Caves National Park in South Australia as a World Heritage site in 1994 and by itself, it is an extension of the Boodjamulla National Park.
Naracoorte Caves National Park is a national park near Naracoorte in the Limestone Coast tourism region in the southeast of South Australia (Australia). The park preserves 6 km² of remnant vegetation, with 26 caves contained within the 3.05 km² World Heritage Area.
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