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Paleoworld-101

Fossil Hunting Holiday and Internship in Richmond, QLD Australia (June - July 2016)

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Paleoworld-101

G'day everyone!

 

This is the fourth big fossil hunting trip report I’ve written now on TFF and it covers my latest adventures in outback Central Queensland (in and around the small town of Richmond). Had I told myself only 3 years ago that I would get to go on all these amazing fossil hunting trips both in England and now in Australia as well I wouldn’t have believed it for a second! Yet now I can finally cross Richmond off my list, which is something I have wanted to do for many years now.

 

Richmond is arguably the fossil capital of Australia and produces amazing material, both vertebrate and invertebrate, from a time during the Cretaceous period about 101-95 million years ago when roughly a quarter of Australia was periodically covered by a warm inland sea called the Eromanga Sea. Fossils of plesiosaurs, ichthyosaurs, fish, turtles, pterosaurs, ammonites and the occasional dinosaur washed in from neighbouring lands are among the most recognisable faunal groups found in the area.

 

I was put into contact with Dr Patrick Smith (who is the curator of the local fossil museum at Richmond called Kronosaurus Korner) by one of my university teachers and from there it was planned for me to come up for a few weeks to Richmond to do a small taxonomy project on fossil shark teeth from the Mackunda Formation. I also participated in a 4 day excavation where Patrick, myself and a small team of other dedicated fossil enthusiasts helped dig up the skeleton of an Ichthyosaur (Platypterygius australis) that had been found in one of the free fossil hunting quarries near Richmond. The excavation made the news and a link to an online article about the dig can be found below. I made it into a couple of the photos!

 

Although I have been collecting for 10 years now this was my first ‘proper’ fossil dig where I got to learn and observe a lot of the necessary skills used by vertebrate palaeontologists in the field when excavating a skeleton such as gridding, mapping bone positions, digging pedestals around the bones and plaster jacketing. Seeing it done countless times on many documentaries doesn’t compare to the real thing! I also got to try out various fossil prep techniques in the lab such as using air scribes and acid prepping. In addition to my internship I was able to do a lot of my own fossil hunting to add to my personal collection and this trip marked the first time that I could collect Australian Mesozoic vertebrate material which was a dream come true for me! My trip to Richmond also coincided with a trip run by the Fossil Club of NSW (which I am a member of) so I was able to collect with them on some days as well and also meet fellow TFF member Foosil, who is part of the club and also attended the trip. The results of my fossil collecting efforts and also my internship excavation are showcased below.

 

Normally I would go into detail about the events of each day and end up with a small novel by the end of it but this time I have decided to let the pictures mostly do the talking instead. What I will say though is that the things I managed to find on this trip absolutely blew me away and are among the best things I have ever collected in my life up to this point, rivalling if not exceeding the very best finds I made on my previous two England collecting trips. To find this kind of fossil material in Australia so soon after doing the same sort of thing in Victoria only 7 months prior was very awesome for me and I already can’t wait for my next fossil trip to Forbes and Dunedoo (for Trilobites and Glossopteris leaves respectively) in just a couple of weeks! I also plan on returning to Richmond in June or July next year as well and continuing work with Patrick at the KK museum. My biggest problem will surely be finding the space to store all of these great finds. Now for the pictures!

 

 

Ichthyosaur Excavation (5/7/16 to 8/7/16) and Miscellaneous Photos from the Trip

 

News article (I’m the guy in the green jumper!): http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-07-12/marine-fossils-found-in-outback-qld/7589792

 

 

Here is the Ichthyosaurs articulated tail vertebrae, alongside a reconstruction of Platypterygius for reference. 

1- Ichthy excavation.JPG

 

A photo of the Ichthyosaurs ribs, some vertebrae and also part of its jaw in the lower right corner

2- ichthy dig.JPG

 

More vertebrae, ribs and part of the jaw. 

3- ichthy dig.JPG

 

The dig site with a grid set up prior to excavation. I am drawing a map of the bone positions in the ground so that the original context of the skeleton can be retained once we took it out in pieces. 

4- ichthy dig.jpg

 

Me drawing my grid map. I must say it was a lot of fun! 

5- ichthy dig.jpg

 

The finished product, which i was quite happy with! Note the animal was nicknamed 'B2' by its discoverer due to the banana-like shape of its body. The head is near the top left with its front paddles stretched out on either side, and its tail tip is towards the lower left. 

6- ichthy dig grid map.jpeg

 

Starting to dig out the skeleton. 

7- ichthy dig.JPG

 

Plaster jacketing sections of the skeleton.

8- ichthy dig.JPG

9- ichthy dig.jpg

 

These next two photos of Izak (Foosil on TFF) and I were taken on a day collecting trip just out of Richmond. The rocks here are from the Mackunda Formation (97-96 million years old) and produced a nice assortment of shark teeth, crustaceans, bivalves, ammonites and belemnites. The dog belonged to the property owner, he wouldn't leave us alone!

11- essex with Izak.JPG

10- essex.JPG

 

Me outside the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum near Winton. 

12- AAOD museum pic.JPG

 

 

Now for the pictures of my fossil finds! 

 

Note that all fossil finds below unless otherwise stated are from the marine Toolebuc Formation and are about 100 million years old. 

 

 

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Bony Fish

 

Richmondichthys scales

6- Richmondichthys Scales.JPG

 

Fish jaws and teeth

7- Fish Jaw with Teeth.JPG

8- Fish Jaw.JPG

9- Fish Jaws with Teeth.JPG10- Fish Jaws with Teeth.JPG

11- Fish Jaw with Teeth.JPG

12- Fish Jaw with Teeth.JPG

14- Fish Jaw with Teeth.JPG

15- Fish Teeth.JPG

 

Fish vertebrae

16- Fish Vertebrae.JPG

 

Fish lepidotrichia (fin rays)

17- Fish Lepidotrichia.JPG

 

Unknown fish bone, possibly skull material?

18- Fish Skull.JPG

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Sharks

 

Various shark teeth, mostly from an undescribed Cardabiodontid (currently being worked on by Mikael Siversson). 

1- Loose Shark Teeth.JPG

 

More teeth from the same Cardabiodontid

2- Undescribed Cardabiodontid.JPG

3- Undescribed Cardabiodontid.JPG

4- Undescribed Cardabiodontid.JPG

7- Undescribed Cardabiodontid.JPG

 

Squalicorax teeth

6- Squalicorax.JPG

10- Undescribed Squalicorax.JPG

9- Squalicorax.JPG

11- Squalicorax.JPG

 

Unknowns

5- Undescribed.JPG

8- Unknown.JPG

 

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Sharks (continued)

 

Cardabiodontid teeth

12- Undescribed Cardabiodontid.JPG

13- Undescribed Cardabiodontid.JPG

 

Echinorhinus tooth

14- Echinorhinus Tooth.JPG

 

These teeth are from the Mackunda Formation just out of Richmond. 97-96 Ma. 

15- Mackunda Shark Tooth.JPG

16- Mackunda Shark Tooth.JPG

17- Mackunda Shark Teeth.JPG

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Protostegid Sea Turtles

 

A beautiful sea turtle metacarpal, likely from Notochelone costata

2- protostegid metacarpal.JPG

 

Sea turtle shells (carapace and plastron pieces)

1- protostegid shells .JPG

2- protostegid shell.JPG

3- protostegid shells.JPG

4- protostegid shell.JPG

5- protostegid shell.JPG

 

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Ichthyosaurs (Platypterygius australis)

 

Ichthyosaur teeth roots and a crown. Note the crown and root in the first picture are not associated but together they represent a nice surrogate complete tooth

1- Ichthy teeth.JPG

2- ichthy tooth.JPG

 

Newly erupting Ichthyosaur tooth. Note the impression of a crown tip at the top of the rock. The emerging tooth is embedded within part of the root of the old tooth that has now mostly gone. 

3- ichthy tooth.JPG

 

Ichthyosaur rib fragments

4- ichthy rib.JPG

6- ichthy rib.JPG

10- ichthy rib.JPG

5- ichthy rib.JPG

 

Ichthyosaur paddle digits

8- ichthy paddle digit.JPG

9- ichthy paddle digit.JPG

 

Another tooth (likely Ichthyosaur) and also a section of marine reptile bone in the top right corner

7- ichthy tooth.JPG

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Ichthyosaurs Continued (Platypterygius australis)

 

Marine reptile bone fragments (likely Ichthyosaur)

11- ichthy bone.JPG

 

Ichthyosaur rib alongside a long fish jaw with teeth, Squalicorax shark tooth, fish bones and belemnite fragments in the same rock

12- ichthy rib and others.JPG

 

Various Ichthyosaur bone fragments, including sections of rib, jaw and a partial vertebra

13- loose ichthy bones.JPG

 

A surrogate Ichthyosaur finger made up of paddle digit bones that i found disassociated but all fairly close by to one another. They likely come from the same individual, but the positioning of the bones here is not definitive. Makes for a very cool display piece though!

14- ichthy finger.JPG

 

Ichthyosaur rib fragment and a marine reptile coprolite

15- ichthy rib.JPG

 

Large Ichthyosaur rib (20cm long) alongside three Ichthyosaur teeth, a piece of Protostegid sea turtle shell, Squalicorax shark tooth and other smaller pieces of marine reptile bone as well. This is probably the find of the trip! 

17- Ichthy rib slab.JPG

16- ichthy rib slab.JPG

 

 

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Elasmosaurids

 

Elasmosaurid plesiosaur tooth. Sadly this was my only confirmed Elasmosaurid find from the trip. I will have to do better next year!

DSCN7623.JPG

DSCN7624.JPG

 

 

Pterosaurs

 

Pterosaur tooth. Australian Pterosaur material is very rare so i was super excited to find this!

1- pterosaur tooth.JPG

 

Section of Pterosaur limb bone. Note how thin the wall of the bone is!

2- pterosaur limb.JPG

3- pterosaur limb.JPG

 

 

Invertebrates and Plants

 

Belemnite guards

1- Belemnites.JPG

 

A couple of ammonites (one of which is a heteromorph straight-coiled ammonite) and a bivalve shell. All are from the Mackunda Formation. 

2- Ammonites and Bivalve.JPG

 

Crab claws from the Mackunda Formation

3- Crab Claw.JPG

4- Crab Claws.JPG

 

Petrified wood

5- Wood.JPG

 

 

That's all folks! Thank you for checking this report out and happy hunting to all!

Nathan. 

 

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Foozil

Fantastic report! Congrats on all that stuff. Anyway, I already said what I wanted say up there, but amazing stuff! :envy:   :ighappy:

And don't even remind me about those adorable but annoying dogs... :ank:

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Fossildude19

Nathan,

First class adventures and wonderful report, pictures, and finds! :wub:

Well done, sir. 

Thanks for the virtual dig experience. :)

Regards, 

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Fruitbat

You're getting opportunities that most of us would give up non-vital body parts to have!  Spectacular report!

 

-Joe

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Kane

Incredible report, incredible finds! Thank you for providing us with an inside view of a tremendous educational experience of a lifetime! :meg:

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Paleoworld-101

Thank you guys! I'm glad you liked it!

 

 

15 hours ago, Foosil said:

Fantastic report! Congrats on all that stuff. Anyway, I already said what I wanted say up there, but amazing stuff! :envy:   :ighappy:

And don't even remind me about those adorable but annoying dogs... :ank:

 

You found amazing material as well! Are you going to post any of them on TFF? Hahah the dogs added to the experience. 

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Foozil
1 hour ago, Paleoworld-101 said:

You found amazing material as well! Are you going to post any of them on TFF

I guess I will. I'll takes some pics in the sun once it stops raining lol. And yeah those dogs were fun. :ighappy:

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Dave (POM) Allen

very cool nice recount of your trip :hammer01:

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Vieira

Thanks to sharing.

 

Amazing finds and report. :D

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ynot

Congratulations on a wonderful life experience!! (And on the fantastic finds!)

Thanks for sharing the trip with Us.

 

Tony

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