Well-preserved turtle fossils dating back about 50 million years have been discovered in an oil shale mine near Gladstone in central Queensland.
A crew from the Australian Age of Dinosaurs (AAoD) at Winton, north-west of Longreach, has been digging at the Gladstone site, looking for fossils to display at its natural history museum.
AAoD executive chairman David Elliott said they had worked in an open pit and uncovered plenty of bones and fossils for preparation.
“There is a deposit in the vicinity of the oil shale, that is the remains of a big old lake, like a big lake system,” he said.
“The lakes have dried up obviously over a number of years so there are all these crocodiles and turtles and that sort of stuff that was around, and you are looking at around 50 million years’ old.
“We were hoping for a lot more crocodiles than we’re finding, but we have found this massive bed of turtles.
“They are beautifully preserved and we are just getting these big slabs of rock with all these bones exposed over the top.”
Mr Elliott said although the turtles were not new to science, they were still important discoveries.
“The exciting thing about this deposit is that is an age that is reasonably rare in Australia, particularly in eastern Australia,” he said.
“But around 50 million years’ old is an age – it is only really around 15 million years after the dinosaurs died out, so it is a long, long time ago and it is a time period in Australia that not a lot is known about.”
Mr Elliott said the fossils that were discovered were about 15 metres below ground level.
“We are getting pieces up to four or five inches across, they are huge big plates,” he said.
“We are getting some small pieces too, but the couple we are working on at the moment, they are quite massive.
“They were big turtles, they would have been probably a good half a metre across or better.”
Mr Elliott said the aim was to collect a range of fossils for display at Winton, and the organisation had been collecting items from across the country over the last few years.
“The aim is to build the exhibition specimens for the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum of Natural History,” he said.