A road project in the Brisbane suburb of Geebung has unearthed information about the area’s past that has scientists excited.
It’s information that goes back tens-of-millions of years, when the area was both warmer and wetter.
And though that was a long time before the arrival of the first humans, there were crocodiles.
Laura Murphy-Oates has the story.
Construction on a new overpass was underway and the workers were drilling 15 metres below ground level, when there were calls to suddenly halt.
An engineer had noticed something unusual in the spoil, or excess dirt.
A collection of 50 million year old fossils, including crocodile vertebrae, fish and frog bones as well as shells, plants and pollen.
CEO of the Queensland Museum Network, Professor Suzanne Miller, says this is a highly significant find for Australian paleontology.
“That’s very unusual to be able to find such diversity and such richness. Practically every piece of rock you turn over has fossils in it, so that gives us an incredible snap shot back 50 million years in time and allows us to build up a picture of what the environment would have been like and what animals had evolved by that time”
Scientists at the Queensland Museum have identified the fossils as belonging to the Eocene Period, about 100 million years after the extinction of the dinosaurs.
So what was Australia like when these fossils were alive?
Well, Australia was still attached to Antarctica and we were closer to the Equator.
Professor Miller says it was also much warmer.
“The area that is now Queensland where these fossils have been found would have been much warmer and wetter 50 million years ago so it would have been very much like rainforest with rivers flowing through, very swampy but an incredible ecosystem of different animals all living an coexisting together.”
Brisbane Mayor Graham Quirk thinks residents of the Queensland capital would be surprised at the discovery.
“Well I think that’s the fascinating part about this- you just don’t know what’s below the Earth’s surface. The last thing we expected was to find fossils of this consequence and significance. The people that have seen these fossils advise that advised that these fossils are of global significance. We know in other parts of the Queensland there have been dinosaur finds.”
Construction has continued on the overpass, but it’s believed there may be more fossils within the excess dirt, now donated to the Queensland Museum.
Queensland Transport Minister Scott Emerson says the construction has not harmed the fossils, but rather aided the process.
“It’s a great outcome that this project can proceed but also we are getting a great scientific discovery. The reality was is that if this project had never occurred we never would have been digging down to those 15 metres below the ground and we never would have discovered these fossils”
The Queensland Museum is calling for community volunteers to assist with sorting through the dirt to find more historic remains.