Research website of Dr Gilbert Price

Archives for May 7, 2015

Live from the dig- Day 2

WOW!!! What an awesome day! It started so well. We woke at dawn to some absolutely spectacular weather. The temperature was perfect for digging, and a faint, but crisp, breeze was gently blowing. As it turned out, it was a pretty good omen.

Dr Julien Louys with a 3.5 million year old lungfish tooth plate

Dr Julien Louys with a 3.5 million year old lungfish tooth plate

We got to the dig site early and continued on from our work the previous day. Kyle excavated an enormous kangaroo femur that he had found yesterday. Nick stumbled across the lower jaw of a giant wombat-like marsupial, Euryzygoma. It had no teeth, but there were a few other unmistakable characters that showed us that it was undoubtedly the big fella. Tara had some early frustrations, but came good in the afternoon finding a fantastic bunch of kangaroo teeth- the ancestors of today’s grey kangaroos.

I didn’t have much luck myself in the field today, but as the old saying goes, there is no ‘I’ in team! In fact, it would be fair to say that I was outshone by my student, my young padawan, Kyle. After lifting the femur, Kyle started to scratch around on the other side of the gully. And he found something cool! It was the lower jaw of a marsupial tapir, a beast called Palorchestes parvus. These things basically resembled the modern placental tapirs of Southeast Asia and South America, but had a pouch. Although these guys have been known about for over 100 years, only a handful of specimens have ever been recovered. The new specimen is going to make a really great addition to what we can learn about this bizarre animal.

Fossil croc tooth cemented into conglomerate

Fossil croc tooth cemented into conglomerate

In the afternoon, we were joined by Joanne’s husband, Mel Wilkinson. I’ve been in the field with Mel a few times before and it would be fair to say that he has a real nose for fossils. As soon as he arrived, Mel picked up a molar tooth of the marsupial lion, Thylacoleo crassidentatus. About half an hour later, Mel had uncovered another wonderful specimen of Euryzygoma– an exquisitely preserved lower jaw (we need to bring Mel out on these digs more often!).

So, our total for the day includes two types of diprotodontoid (the massively weird wombat-like marsupials including Palorchestes and Euryzygoma), about five kangaroo species such as Giant greys (Macropus pan), Giant forest wallabies (Protemnodon), and Giant hair-wallabies (Troposodon), plus a bunch of turtles, crocs, fish, and even some fossilised freshwater bivalves. All in all, a wonderful day in the field!

In the evening, we visited the Steiner School camp. Our two students, Nick and Kyle, made a short show-and-tell presentation to the Grade 10-ers about the various fossils that we had picked up over the past couple of days. Julien gave a ‘big picture’ talk on what we were doing out there, and why the palaeontological work is so important, especially in regards to how we can use the past to inform modern conservation strategies. The Steiner students are a switched-on bunch and asked a lot of great questions.

If you’re on Twitter and would like to follow our exploits live, we’ll be tweeting with the hashtag #LiveFromTheDig. One more day to go!