EDUCATIONAL FUN: This year's Capricorn Caves Fossil Open Day will offer plenty of fun for the entire family on Saturday from 9am.
EDUCATIONAL FUN: This year's Capricorn Caves Fossil Open Day will offer plenty of fun for the entire family on Saturday from 9am. Ann Augusteyn

Discover fossils of creatures from Rocky's past this weekend

CAPRICORN Caves invites you to our free fossil open day event on Saturday, June 22, with many exciting activities this year.

Come along and help palaeontologists discover the fossils of creatures that roamed Rockhampton over half a million years ago.

Palaeontologists are studying the bones and teeth of these extinct species, including giant beasts called megafauna, to piece together the fossil history of The Caves region.

If you love science, ever wanted to be a palaeontologist, or discover a fossil for the very first time, then this is your chance to be a citizen scientist for the day.

Youngsters dig for fossils at Capricorn Caves.
Youngsters dig for fossils at Capricorn Caves. Ann Augusteyn

It's a rare opportunity to get your hands dirty to dig, sieve and sort for real fossils from unprocessed cave deposits.

Real palaeontologists and palaeo-guides from Queensland Museum, Monash University, Museums Victoria and Capricorn Caves will be on hand to help identify the fossils as you find them.

You just might discover a fossil bone or tooth, or even a species, new to science!

Over the years thousands of people have been working through the tonnes of fossil-rich cave earth, adding new specimens and species to a catalogue of over 160 different species so far found.

"Citizen science is helping us to map the prehistory of Australia's unique animals through time,” Rochelle Lawrence said.

In 2017, a lower molar from the pygmy marsupial "lion”, Thylacoleo hilli, was found, making it the first time a molar of this megafauna species had been discovered.

Thylacoleo hilli is an extinct carnivorous marsupial that lived on the ground and in the trees of an ancient rainforest 500,000 years ago.

Just last year another mystery tooth was found that could not be recognised at first by palaeontologists.

Palaeontologists Dr Scott Hocknull (Queensland Museum) and Rochelle Lawrence (Capricorn Caves), have recently investigated the tooth at the Queensland Museum and are excited to announce that it also belonged to Thylacoleo hilli.

"This is a great addition to discoveries from last year and is helping us to better understand this peculiar group of apex predators that once lived in our rainforests,” Dr. Hocknull said

Other exciting rare finds from last year include the remains of the world's smallest kangaroo, a totally new species yet to be scientifically named.

It is related to the living pademelon kangaroos you see in rainforests today but smaller than a rabbit.

"We have affectionately nicknamed this kangaroo, "Mini-roo”, a tiny little kangaroo that was so small that owls would have been able to hunt it,” Dr. Hocknull said.

"These discoveries made by our citizen scientists are new to science and we are always excited to see what is going to pop up with the next bag of finds,” said Rochelle Lawrence.

The fossil finds made on the day are taken to the Geosciences fossil collections at the Queensland Museum to be cleaned, processed and studied by palaeontologists.

One recent discovery from the fossil deposit has perplexed the palaeontologists.

"We have discovered a large claw that is unlike any other we have found before.

"We are still working on what this claw belongs to so hopefully more remains of this creature will be discovered during the fossil open day,” Dr. Hocknull said.

This year's event will feature a range of activities from creature clay-making and colouring in to prehistoric temporary tattoos.

Little Aussie Encounters provides the opportunity to interact and learn about some of our living native species.

Rocky Instincts will be demonstrating a range of cultural skills including bush survival and fire making.

Dr Koo Koo will be presenting fun science-based activities including slime making, volcanos and lava lamps.

Don't forget to bring some money for the sausage sizzle with 100% of the proceeds going towards the The Caves Rural Fire Brigade who worked tremendously hard to battle our recent fires.

Rockhampton Regional Library will also be engaging the imagination with storytelling while 4RO will be broadcasting live from the caves.

Also, don't forget to check out Queensland Museum's exciting Endangered and Extinct display.

Free cave fossil tours for kids accompanied by a paying adult will also be available, but be sure to book in advance to avoid disappointment.

The fossil tour takes you back in time to uncover the secrets entombed in the caves.

See fossil skeletons of strange marine creatures that lived before the time of the dinosaurs.

Discover the tiny creatures and megafauna that roamed an ancient rainforest of The Caves region hundreds of thousands of years ago.

Visit a working palaeontology excavation and see how millions of tiny bones have filled a cave chamber over thousands of years.

Walk through our dry rainforest and spot life-sized creatures from our killer pygmy marsupial lion to a giant venomous goanna and our very own big-eyed, bushy-tailed rabbit rat scientifically named after the Capricorn Caves.

To find out more information, check out the Capricorn Caves Facebook page.

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