Digging up a new old world

By MIKARLA THURECT

FIVE million years ago Rockhampton was home to pythons the size of anacondas, wombats with meat-cleaving teeth, giant frogs and mini lions.

Now all that remains of these never-before-seen Megafauna species are ancient fossils, frozen in time at our very own Mount Etna.

Scientists and local volunteers spent the last fortnight digging at the secret excavation site.

Queensland Museum palaeontologist Scott Hocknull said it was the only rainforest record of its kind in Australia.

Mr Hocknull said the dig, first explored in 2000, had unveiled a completely new world.

"Imagine standing in a rainforest and seeing normal animals plus land-dwelling crocs, tree kangaroos as big as humans, a bull-dog sized ring-tail possum.''

Mr Hocknull said the amount of material was staggering. He said the Capricorn Caves had acted as pit traps, collecting animals over millions of years.

"We are working with chambers the size of Olympic swimming pools. I'm only starting the project. It will take many hundreds of years to complete.''

Mr Hocknull said the find was every palaeontologist's dream. He said not only were new species being discovered, but the site also gave one of the world's best insights into climate change.

Mr Hocknull said the site predated humans and showed climate change through the ages.

Evidence suggested Rockhampton was covered in rich rainforest 280,000 years ago.

Mr Hocknull said studying the past could help humans understand what lies ahead.

"We can't change nature, but we can change what we do.'' r Queensland Museum will host an open day at the site in September. Times and dates yet to be set.



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