PALAENTOLOGIST doctor Tom Rich has loved not only dinosaurs, but particularly primitive mammals since he was a kid.
“Due to ancient water ways many of Australia’s earliest mammals have ended up here at Inverloch,” Dr Rich said.
Australia’s fossils are some of the most elusive in the world, but thanks to Tom, his wife Pat and their volunteer team, a large amount of records have been found.
Prior to low tide the team prepare an excavation zone around five metres square. Each day they then dig approximately half a metre below the sand to reveal the fossil bed.
“Although it is a very difficult site we are lucky the sand has protected these fossils for over 125 million years,” dig coordinator Lesley Kool said.
Once the sand is removed, channels are formed for run off from drenched sand above, pumps are installed, the team will then clean the surface layer and begin the excavation.
Large pieces of rock from the fossil layer are then broken down. Each broken surface is inspected until the rock either reveals a fossil or is deemed too small to contain one.
The team has found 46 tiny mammal jaws in the 21 years they have been returning to Bass Coast, which makes up over 80 per cent of Australia’s Mesozoic mammals and is something the group is very proud of.
“If it was one man doing this he would have to work seven days a week for 50 years,”
Dr Rich said.
After working in the field for almost 50 years Dr Rich avoids digging these days.
Mammals found at this fossil site lived a very different experience to now, as Australia was once attached to Antarctica, the last remnant of the super continent, Gondwana.
Victorian theropod dinosaurs lived relatively isolated from most other dinosaur faunas. They survived in cool to near-polar climates, receiving up to six weeks of darkness each winter.
Theropod ‘beast-footed’ dinosaurs had the basic similarities of hips and a lizard resemblance.
Today theropod dinosaurs are still with us as living birds.
The three-week dig would not have been possible without volunteers, and collaboration between Monash, Swinburne and Deakin universities, South Gippsland Conservation Group, Bunurong land owners, Parks Victoria and the Inverloch RACV resort.
Digging up prehistoric treasure