The Fossil History of Australia

Mesozoic Era
- Jurassic Period

(named after the Jura Mountains between France and Switzerland)

213 to 144 million years ago

The supercontinent of Pangaea was in process of breaking up at this time, although Australia and Antarctica were still firmly joined together. During the Jurassic, the New Zealand land emerged, first connected to the Australian area and towards the end of the period, separated by water.

Although this is generally considered to be the period of dinosaurs, there is only a small amount of evidence of this in the Australian region, with most of this being the fossilized remains of footprints. Traces of bones have mainly been found in Queensland around the mining area. Among these were the bones of the Rhoetosaurus, a very large sauropod (lizard hipped dinosaur which walks on all four legs). The sauropods were plant eaters and well may have been the largest land animal to have walked the Earth.


Reptiles were the dominant life form on land and were also found in the seas. Remains of a large aquatic reptiles called Pleiosaurs, have been found in Queensland. Other marine fauna included ammonites, and bivalves, as well as fish and sharks.

In the Jurassic period, there were small mammals, but these were a minority species. Remains of insects are also found on the land, and the first flies and bees are detected during this period.

Although Australia was close to Antarctica, the climate was overall warmer than today with no polar ice, and there was an increase in rich forestation of conifers and ferns during this time. Coral reefs also did well during this time. Many of the petroleum deposits found in Australia date back to the Jurassic time.

Many of cliffs around Southern Australia and Tasmania formed at the end of this period, including the dolomite cliffs of Cradle Mountain in Tasmania, as Australia began to part from its Southern neighbour.


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