Tourism Matters Column

We have a wonderful and very braggable new experience at Outback at Isa these days that I would love to share with readers this month. 

Imagine you’re the first person to catch sight of a fossilised creature that hasn’t seen the light of day for 20 million years. 

Imagine your heart pounding and your spine tingling as you stare in delighted silence, trying to identify the extraordinary animal from a lost world.  

Unwrapping gifts from prehistoric Queensland is the everyday for senior preparator Al Rackham and volunteer Jo Riddington who work in the Riversleigh Fossil Centre’s laboratory in Mount Isa. 

The lab located at Outback at Isa, Mount Isa’s visitor centre, stopped extracting fossils in late 2009, only returning to the task in late 2016.

Every day there is an extreme buzz of excitement as Al and Jo extract specimens from limestone collected many years ago, from the site known as ‘Two Trees’ in the Riversleigh World Heritage area near Adels Grove.  

Recently, amongst the emerging biological paraphernalia of lung fish jaws, turtle shells, snake vertebrae and cat fish barbs, something even more surprising protruded.  On its unexpected path to immortality, the pearly molar of a marsupial mammal appeared. 

Uncertain from what doomed animal it belonged, Al showed it to visiting Palaeontologist Professor Mike Archer.

The Professor took a very educated guess that this ‘little furry’ may be from an extinct species of koala, but to be sure we will send it off to Sydney for further analysis. 

It is exciting to be a part of Riversleigh’s prehistoric menagerie where the past unfolds and presents a jigsaw puzzle of hundreds of tiny bits and pieces. 

Exquisitely preserved species from the Riversleigh fossil fields in Northern Australia tell the story of the ‘Australia Marsupial Arc’. 

When the rest of the world’s mammals were developing into elephants, tigers, bears and horses, we were developing our flesh eating kangaroos; rhinoceros sized wombats, marsupial lions and fuzzy little koalas. 

I invite you all to come see the parade of prehistoric life at the Riversleigh Fossil Centre, the experience is one of a kind.

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