In the footsteps of giants
Amongst the large sauropod dinosaur bones being excavated in western Queensland are the fragmentary remains of much smaller dinosaurs, and animals that you might recognise today!
Lungfish teeth have been found in and around the dinosaur sites in western Queensland. These teeth are crushing plates, used to break open the hard shells of molluscs and crustaceans.
Small teeth from an ornithopod dinosaur, called an hypsilophodontid, have been found in amongst the sieving. These small dinosaurs were swift plant-eaters, running on their hind legs to evade predators.
Although ankylosaur dinosaurs are usually recognised by their massive boney armour plates, their teeth can also be found.
The teeth from predatory dinosaurs, such as theropods, have been found amongst the large sauropod dinosaur bones. These may have either washed into the deposit or may have broken out of the jaw whilst scavenging on the rotting sauropods' carcass.
Crocodile teeth and vertebrae
One of the most common fossils found are crocodile teeth, bones and osteoderms (bones underneath the skin). Their main prey items were probably fish and turtles.
Fragments of shell from small freshwater turtles are abundant in the sieving.
A single pterosaur limb bone (femur) is the first evidence of these flying reptiles from this geological layer.
Long-necked plesiosaurs frequented coastal freshwater creeks and rivers, loosing their teeth whilst feeding on molluscs and fish.
A tiny recurved claws indicate the presence of small insect-eating theropods, possibly from a coelurosaur.
Cretaceous fossil freshwater bivalves (or Freshwater Mussels). These bivalves were found with both valves intact and closed. The abundance and preservation of the bivalves indicates that these individuals were caught, killed and preserved in their life positions. Freshwater bivalves filter feed through a siphon they extend out of the anterior portion of the shell. The main shell body sits beneath the sediment and is firmly fixed within the substrate. If this siphon is buried under large amounts of sedimentation then the molluscs die in their life position. Several species have been described by Queensland Museum Geosciences Senior Curator, Dr. Scott Hocknull.
Insect fossils are extremely rare, however, the wings of lice-wings and cicadas have been found in the Winton area.
Plant fossils are abundant in the Winton Formation and include giant conifer pines similar to the Wollemi Pine, some of the first flowering plants (angiosperms) and strange tree ferns.
Araucarians (Conifer Pines)
Fossilised conifers are common in the Winton Formation such as this three-dimensional cone. Tempskya judithae is a peculiar tree fern species found as petrified wood from within the Winton Formation. Named after its discoverer, Judith Elliott, this species is one of the more unique plants from the Winton Formation. The species was named by Queensland Museum Geoscience Honorary Research Fellows, Trevor Clifford and Mary Dettmann.
Angiosperms (flowering plants)
Flowering plants have been found throughout the Winton Formation and include broad-leafed plants and included relatives of the modern day Chinese Elm.
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