Students discover three tonne wombats roamed Nebo

14 September 2012

Wombat-like animals the size of small cars, the world's largest lizard and giant crocodiles were just some of the fossils local students came face to face with this week at a dig site near Nebo.

Moranbah State High School’s Earth Science class and Nebo State School were given a rare insight into what roamed the region over 30,000 years ago thanks to an ongoing partnership between the Queensland Museum and BHP Billiton Mitsui Coal Pty Ltd (BMC).

The annual dig is part of a broader three-year partnership between the Queensland Museum and BMC, which also includes an exhibit for Nebo Museum, an exhibition for the Queensland Museum, Museum Development Officer support for the region and megafauna-themed educational loans kits for schools around the state.

Located at BMC’s South Walker Creek Mine, the dig site is being systematically excavated revealing a range of creatures from Australia’s past including the partial remains of Diprotodon the world’s largest ever marsupial to tiny bird bones.

The students learnt firsthand from Queensland Museum Vertebrate Palaeontologist and Senior Curator Dr Scott Hocknull about the animals and the process of fossil discovery and preparation.

“We are finding dozens of fossils from tiny fish scales to giant limb bones of extinct megafauna, some with tooth marks from crocodiles. This indicates that SouthWalker Creek was once home to enormous crocodiles, giant lizards and the world's largest kangaroos,” Dr Hocknull said.

“It’s the first time we have been able to excavate a site in the tropics year to year. The discoveries will provide some answers to one of science’s most perplexing questions: what are the megafauna, how did they live and what drove them extinct?

“We are also working closely with local traditional owners Barada Barna to ensure any items of Cultural Heritage are identified,” he said.

BMC Asset President Michael Rosengren said, “This partnership is about ensuring our natural history is understood and shared with all Queenslanders. To unlock the future, we must understand our past.”

Moranbah State High School teacher Phillip Lynch-Harlow said experiences like these broaden the education and outlook of Moranbah’s State High School’s Earth Science students.

“It takes students out of the classroom and gives them an appreciation of both the range of careers available in Earth Science and brings to life palaeontology, particularly fossils, which they study at school. It is a fantastic opportunity to see both techniques and fossils that they would otherwise never have the chance to view,” Mr Lynch-Harlow said.

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Media contact: Sarah Perrott 07 3842 9388 / 0417 741 710  pr@qm.qld.gov.au