Yesterday I got to help out with the fossil dig from one of the caves in the park (Blanche Cave). On Friday (two days ago) the paleontologist and her helpers had taken out bags and bags of dirt from the dig area inside the cave, so yesterday they needed to sieve all the dirt out and dry the bones and fossils. We had to empty the bags of dirt into the sieves, wash them in a large trough of water to get most of the dirt and clay out, and then empty the sieves into cat litter boxes to let the bones and fossils dry in the sun. Once they are dried they will be sorted and identified. The paleontologist and her team have dug down to layers between 50,000-70,000 years old, which is about when the Australian megafauna went extinct. These animals include the Diprotodon (a giant wombat-like mammal about the size of a hippopotamus that is the largest marsupial currently known), Procoptodon (the giant short-faced kangaroo), and the Marsupial Lion (Thylacoleo carnifex; the largest meat-eating mammal known to have ever existed in Australia). Most of the things in the sieves yesterday were bones from recently-dead animals, like frogs, birds, rodents, etc. that have fallen into the cave or have been brought in by a predator. However, sometimes there are some really neat things to find. In one of the sieves we found a jawbone, with several teeth still intact, from a Protemnodon, which was a mammal similar to wallabies but much larger (the largest ones weigh over 240 pounds). The jawbone looked amazingly fresh and the teeth were even still shiny! It’s amazing how well caves preserve things. The caves have acted as natural pitfall traps and predator dens for over 500,000 years, which is why there are so many neat fossils and bones preserved inside. It was amazing to get to help out with the dig and see firsthand some of the fossils from the caves. Sorry, I didn’t get any pictures because I was too busy having fun and getting dirty!
The fossil dig in Blanche Cave. That few feet of digging goes down about 50,000-70,000 years. Pretty darn amazing.
Some of the various animals whose remains have been found in the park.
Dippy the Diprotodon. Apparently when they first made this and put it in the park, they strapped ropes to it and carried it by a helicopter to its place by the road. News crews came out and it was a big story. Eventually they moved it back into the park because it was distracting drivers and was an easy target for some stupid kids who shot it up.