The Fossil History of Australia

Paleozoic Era - Carboniferous Period

(from the Latin meaning coal-bearing)

(354 to 286 million years ago)

Significant southward movement of the Gondwana supercontinent during the Carboniferous period positioned Australia very close to the South Polar regions, and the area experienced cooling and another ice age towards the end of this time. A quite different climate was experienced from the land in the Northern hemisphere, which was warm during this time.

Generally, this change in climate was beginning to have devastating effect on life on the land, now "down-under". There was less diversity of the plant life, although some new varieties, mostly low-growing plants, still appeared at this time. These were mainly found around the coast or near inland water.

No traces of amphibians have been found in Australia during this period, although they were common in the north, particularly the North American area. Limited traces of insects have been found in Australia dating back to this period.

Marine life was still abundant, although trilobites were still declining, possibly due to an increase in carnivorous fish. Sharks also evolved, with numerous fossil remains found from this time. Some of the teeth found are similar to those found in sharks today.

Brachiopods, bivalves and crinoids all flourished in the seas around Australia during the Carboniferous period. Some corals are also found from this time, although they were not as abundant as in previous times.

Bivalve mollusc

The Carboniferous period was a period of transition and instability, with many volcanoes were active during this time. The remains of these may be seen around the Newcastle area in New South Wales. Towards the end of the period, Australia was heading into a very deep ice age and a more stable time.

 

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