Flinders Ranges fossils documented for World Heritage bid

(ABC News: Nicola Gage) By Nicola Gage

Posted

February 12, 2017 10:45:46

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Diego García-Bellido and Jim Gehling are documenting fossils they are certain are internationally significant.
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“They were first discovered in the Flinders Ranges very close to this site and now they’ve been discovered on every other continent, except Antarctica.”One of our missions over the next few years, as part of our program, is to look at the Flinders Ranges for its intrinsic value.”

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Many of the fossils are imprints in sandstone of the region’s ancient life. I couldn’t even believe my eyes how these things were just sitting there and you can basically touch things that were buried 550 million years ago,” he said.”I’m trying to bring into the mix the information that comes from slightly younger rocks than the Ediacaran, so the Cambrian, and putting that into context to bring out the most important values.”

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Ross Fargher spotted the fossils on his outback property about three decades ago. (ABC News: Nicola Gage)
‘Most of the sites undiscovered, let alone studied’Documenting that value will eventually form a bid to list as World Heritage part of the Flinders Ranges.The South Australian Government is leading efforts to seek the listing, and Dr Gehling has expressed confidence the remote inland region eventually will be formally recognised for its international significance.”The Flinders Ranges is really quite replete with fossils — it’s just that most of the sites have not been discovered, let alone studied,” he said. Dr Gehling has been researching the outback rocks for about half a century and says his fascination for their geological value keeps growing.He said each find was like being a child opening presents at a birthday party.”I’m like my six-year-old grandson, I get excited when I see something new and make a discovery,” he said. “Nilpena has the potential of hundreds of years of research work. (ABC News: Nicola Gage)
Jane and Ross Fargher run about 900 cattle on Nilpena Station, and it was Mr Fargher who discovered the ancient treasures on his property in the early 1980s and showed them to scientists.”I noticed when I’d been out here mustering that there was plenty of rippled stone,” he said.He is happy to see the fossils being documented for possible World Heritage listing of the area.”It needs to happen, for the protection of it and because it is known as one of the best sites in the world — we’re certainly backing it all the way,” he said.”Not only would world heritage listing help better protect these ancient treasures, but it could also prove highly beneficial for tourism.” Paleontologists are working in the searing outback sun to document fossils in the Flinders Ranges, as part of efforts to get the region onto the World Heritage list.Scientist Jim Gehling said the Ediacaran fossils at remote Nilpena Station in northern South Australia were believed to be more than half-a-billion years old.”The Flinders Ranges national park, including Wilpena Pound, is an iconic site because it has both Ediacaran and Cambrian fossils,” Dr Gehling explained.”We really don’t know a lot about the Ediacara fossils because of the very fact they have no bones and shells — they are imprints.”More than 500 million years ago, most of the rocky Flinders Ranges which now rise above the outback desert were an ocean floor.In the layers of rippled sandstone are the imprints of soft-bodied creatures which could be the ancestors of worms and crustaceans.”Those imprints give you the shape of the animal, sometimes even its movement traces, where it had been and what it was eating,” Dr Gehling said. We have literally just scratched the surface.”Achieving world heritage status could take yearsAchieving world heritage listing is a lengthy and ambitious process, which backers believe could take up to five years.Another of the researchers, Diego García-Bellido, said there could be no doubt the Ediacaran fossils of the Flinders Ranges were globally important.”When I came here, it was just mind-blowing.
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