Dr Scott Hocknull makes a presentation to Nebo State School in 2012.
Dr Scott Hocknull makes a presentation to Nebo State School in 2012. Contributed

Palaeontologists arrive at mine sites rich in fossils

QUEENSLAND Museum Network palaeontologists and researchers have embarked on their annual field expedition to South Walker Creek Mine this month in a bid to uncover more amazing fossil treasures.

Operated by BHP Billiton Mitsui Coal (BMC) and located 40km west of Nebo, the South Walker Creek mine site was once a stomping ground for megafauna - an extinct, super-sized species of mammals, reptiles and marsupials.

Since stumbling across a fossilised bone - later determined to belong to the ferocious predatory crocodile Pallimnarchus - BMC has partnered with the Queensland Museum Network to systematically excavate the site, revealing spectacular never-before-seen megafauna fossils, ranging in size from minute fish scales to colossal limb bones.

Queensland Museum Network chief executive officer Professor Suzanne Miller said Queensland has the most comprehensive fossil history in Australia, dating back 1700 million years.

"The fossils recovered from South Walker Creek reveal fascinating new insights into our ancient past," Prof Miller said.

"The ability to systematically excavate the site year to year means we can collate some conclusive baseline data on megafauna including their diet and their habits."

Dr Scott Hocknull was the palaeontologist called to identify the first discovery and this is the third time he has led a field expedition to South Walker Creek.

"It is wonderful to be at South Walker Creek again, continuing the work that has resulted from the earlier, initial fossil discovery here," Dr Hocknull said.

"This year we have been using optically stimulated luminesce (OSL) dating techniques on some of the South Walker Creek fossils to help better understand - and answer the surrounding questions - of how megafauna became extinct."