An exceptional herd of fossils, such as trapdoor spiders, giant cicadas, small fish, and ancient bird wings, buried in Australia’s so-called dead heart reveals a unique snapshot of the time. tropical rain forest Carpeted on a continent that is now almost dry.
Paleontologists have discovered a treasure trove of fossils known as Lagerstätte (German for “storage”) in New South Wales. The area is famous for what British geologist John Walter Gregory called “Australia’s Dead Heart” over 100 years ago. .. The location of Lagerstätte’s private land was kept secret to protect it from illegal fossil collectors. Meanwhile, scientists have unearthed the remains of the flora and fauna that lived there 16 to 11 million years ago.
Researchers have unearthed unique archaeological sites in Australian fossil records during the Miocene era (23-5.3 million years ago) and reported in a new study. Most of the previous Miocene found that other scientists in Australia unearthed larger animal bones and teeth that are commonly preserved in Australia’s dry landscape. .. However, the new cache contained fossils of small, delicate creatures such as: Spider And insects, and flora from the Miocene rainforest.
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By examining well-preserved fossils with a scanning electron microscope (SEM), the authors of the study were able to image as much detail as individual cells and intracellular structures. Some images even revealed the last meal of animals stored in the belly of the fish, such as fish, larvae, and partially digested dragonfly feathers. In other fossilized scenes, freshwater mussels stuck to fish fins and pollen grains attached to the insect’s body.
“This site gives us unprecedented insight into what these ecosystems were like,” said Matthew McCulley, Principal Research Author and Paleontology Curator at the Australian Museum. I told Live Science by email. “We now know how diverse these ecosystems are, which species live in them, and how these species interacted.”
Paleontologists first visited this site (now called McGrath Flat) in 2017 after farmers reported finding fossil leaves in one of their fields. Scientists have investigated and found that “this place produces a much wider range of fossils, including insects, spiders, and fish debris,” McCulley said.
According to McCulley, the fossil-bearing rock formations range in size from 11,000 to 22,000 square feet (1,000 to 2,000 square meters), and paleontologists have excavated just over 500 square feet (50 square meters) so far. A matrix of iron-rich rocks called goethite surrounded the fossils above the sandstone layer. The flora and fauna remaining in the stagnant pool iron Other minerals after spilling from the nearby basalt cliffs spilled into a pool known in Australia as billabong, where they were elaborately preserved.
Millions of years later, researchers have begun to stitch together fossils to create portraits of the extinct Australian rainforest. They found flowers from flowering plants, pollen, leaves from fungal spores, more than 12 fish specimens, “a wide variety of fossil insects and sparrows”, and feathers from birds about the size of modern sparrows. .. report. Analysis of the preserved leaves suggests that the average temperature at that time was about 63 degrees Fahrenheit (17 degrees Celsius).
“I think spider fossils are the most attractive,” McCulley told Live Science. According to McCulley, only four fossil spiders are known from Australia so far, and researchers have found 13 spider fossils in McGrath Flats so far.
The conserved soft tissues of feathers and corns and skin retained another stimulating detail of the pigment storage cell structure called melanosomes. The colors themselves are not preserved, but scientists can compare the shape, size, and stacking patterns of fossil melanosomes with those of modern animals. By doing so, paleontologists are often able to reconstruct the colors and patterns of extinct species. I am studying co-author Michael Frese, an associate professor at the University of Canberra, Australia. Said in a statement..
Much has been discovered in McGraths Flat, but “this is really just the beginning of work on a fossil site,” McCurry said. “We now know the age of the sediments and the conservation of the fossils, but there are years of work before us to explain and name all the species we have found. I think McGraths Flat will be very important in construction. A more accurate picture of how Australia has changed over time. “
The findings were published in the journal on Friday (January 7th). Science Advances..
Originally published on Live Science.
Rare and fragile fossils found in the secret of Australia’s “dead heart”
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