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The weird and wonderful creatures that could become Victoria’s official fossil

Kamahl Cogdon, August 19, 2021 7:00PM Kids News

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A drawing of Palorchestes azael, whose fossils is one of eight nominated to become the fossil emblem of Victoria. Picture: Museums Victoria media_cameraA drawing of Palorchestes azael, whose fossils is one of eight nominated to become the fossil emblem of Victoria. Picture: Museums Victoria

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Australia’s states have traditionally adopted emblems to represent their local plants and animals. But now some states are also adding a fossil emblem.

NSW, South Australia and Western Australia all have fossil emblems, and the ACT recently held a public vote to choose its fossil emblem.

Victoria, too, has just launched a public vote to select an official state fossil, with eight fossil specimens in the running to become the emblem.

The eight fossils, short-listed by Museums Victoria palaeontologists*, include a crocodile-like Cretaceous* amphibian* with a head shaped like an old fashioned rubbish bin lid and a mouth containing dozens of ridged fangs.

media_cameraA drawing of Koolasuchus cleelandi shows it poking its rubbish bin lid-shaped head out of the water. Picture: Museums Victoria

This creature, called Koolasuchus cleelandi, lived about 125 million years ago. The fossil was found near San Remo in southeast Victoria.

media_cameraThis fossil of the jaw of Koolasuchus cleelandi was found on Rowell’s Beach near San Remo, Victoria. Picture: Museums Victoria

LEARN MORE ABOUT KOOLASUCHUS CLEELANDI

Victorian fossil emblem – Koolasuchus cleelandi

Another candidate is Palorchestes azael, an unusual marsupial* that was heavier than a buffalo and lived 10 million years ago until as recently as 40,000 years ago.

Palorchestes’ teeth and jaws looked like those of a giant kangaroo, but it was more closely related to wombats.

media_cameraThis fossil of Palorchestes azael show its teeth and jaws were like those of a kangaroo even though the marsupial was more closely related to wombats. Picture: Museums Victoria

The best-known fossils of Palorchestes come from limestone caves from Strathdownie in the west of Victoria to Buchan in the east of the state.

LEARN MORE ABOUT PALORCHESTES AZAEL

Victorian fossil emblem – Palorchestes azael

Other fossil emblem candidates include Janjucetus hunderi, a small but fierce whale that lived 25 million years ago off the Victorian coast, and Leaellynasaura amicagraphica, a small plant eating dinosaur from the Early Cretaceous period.

media_cameraThe fossil of Janjucetus hunderi’s skull. Picture: Museums Victoria

LEARN MORE ABOUT JANJUCETUS HUNDERI

Victorian fossil emblem – Janjucetus hunderi

Leaellynasaura was found in Dinosaur Cove, near the Great Otway National Park. It was named after the daughter of palaeontologists Tom Rich and Patricia Vickers-Rich and is one of the few dinosaur species to be named after a female.

media_cameraThe skull fossil of Leaellynasaura amicagraphica was named after the daughter of the palaeontologists who discovered it at Dinosaur Cove. Picture: Museums Victoria

The remaining four fossils are a small 470-million-year-old marine invertebrate* called Isograptus victoriae, a 400-million-year-old plant called Baragwanathia, a tiny 130-million-year-old mammal called Bishops whitmorei and a 5-million-year-old huge seabird called Pelagornis.

The chosen fossil will join Victoria’s other six official state emblems: the leadbeater’s possum (animal emblem), the helmeted honeyeater (bird emblem), the common seadragon (marine animal emblem), the common heath (floral emblem), gold (mineral emblem) and the blue, white, green and pink tartan emblem.

LEARN MORE ABOUT LEAELLYNASAURA AMICAGRAPHICA

Victorian fossil emblem – Leaellynasaura amicagraphica

Western Australia became the first state to adopt a fossil emblem when it proclaimed* the Gogo fish Mcnamaraspis kaprios in 1995.

NSW adopted its Devonian fish Mandageria fairfaxi fossil emblem in 2015 and South Australia adopted the Spriggina floundersi fossil emblem in 2017.

Museums Victoria chief executive and director Lynley Crosswell said: “We know from our visitors that people of all ages are intrigued* by fossils. Our experts have selected eight remarkable specimens from among more than 4 million fossils in the state palaeontology collection – now it’s everyone else’s turn to choose their favourite to be immortalised* as Victoria’s fossil emblem.”

After the public vote, the winning fossil will be submitted to the State Government for official approval as the state’s fossil emblem.

Victorians have until October 4 to vote for their favourite fossil at museumsvictoria.com.au/melbournemuseum/state-fossil-emblem

GLOSSARY

  • palaeontologists: scientist who studies fossils
  • Cretaceous: the period of time between about 144 and 65 million years ago
  • amphibian: type of animal that lives both on land and in water
  • marsupial: type of mammal that has a pouch
  • invertebrate: animal with no spine
  • proclaimed: announced officially
  • intrigued: very interested, curious, fascinated
  • immortalised: make something famous or remembered forever

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QUICK QUIZ

  1. Which three states already have fossil emblems?
  2. Which state has just launched a public vote to choose its fossil emblem?
  3. How many fossil specimens are in the running to be named this state’s fossil emblem?
  4. Who chose these fossils for the public vote?
  5. Which state was the first to adopt a fossil emblem and when did it adopt it?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Which fossil will you choose?
Read about the fossils that Victorians can vote for. Which one do you think should be the state’s fossil emblem? Choose the fossil you think deserves this honour. Write sentences explaining why you chose it.

Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science

2. Extension
Queensland and Tasmania are the only states that will not have a fossil emblem. Write a script for a television or online advertisement. The purpose of your ad is to convince the people and governments of Queensland and Tasmania that it is important to have a fossil emblem.

Time: allow 25 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Critical and Creative Thinking, Science

VCOP ACTIVITY
1. Remember the dinosaurs!
Being immortalised in an emblem is a pretty cool feat, especially when the creature hasn’t roamed earth for millions of years. So what’s the point of it? Why make a fossil an emblem?Write a paragraph explaining why you think a fossil is being made into an emblem, and why each state will have their own one instead of one for the whole of Australia? See if you can use information from the article to further explain your understanding.

2. Extension
Your challenge today is to create an emblem or flag for your house. You may also like to add a moto to go with it. What best represents the people in your household and why? Label your emblem or flag with an explanation of why you created it they way you did.Why not create your emblem or flag on a larger scale to display in your front window or on your front door for others to see as they walk past?

Extra Reading in civics