Rains reveal Collinsville's mammoth treasure

Rains reveal Collinsville's mammoth treasure


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PREHISTORIC BEHEMOTH: A Diprotodon cast skeleton on display at the South Australian Museum. Fossil remains of the same species have been found at Collinsville Station.

PREHISTORIC BEHEMOTH: A Diprotodon cast skeleton on display at the South Australian Museum. Fossil remains of the same species have been found at Collinsville Station.

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COLLINSVILLE Station in South Australia's Mid North has been synonymous with the Australian wool industry for the past 100 years.

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COLLINSVILLE Station in South Australia's Mid North has been synonymous with the Australian wool industry for the past 100 years.

The Merino and Poll Merino Stud has loyal clients across SA, and from the Eastern States down to Tasmania.

Despite its long history, it would hardly be known as the place of prehistoric behemoths – until now.

In Easter 2011, Cousins Merino Services owner Paul Cousins was camping at the station with his family and the Brooks family from East Bungaree Stud.

Paul undertakes sheep classing for Collinsville and was taking some time out for an annual holiday.

"Our families were walking through the creek because it had eroded away fairly well after the big flood," he said.

"At the edge of the creek, about 10 feet deep, was a channel. I looked in and saw these bones sticking out."

The families at first believed them to be horse bones, but they joked around, questioning if Paul had unearthed the fossilised bones of a dinosaur.

"They were good-sized bones. One was part of a hip," Paul said.

Paul broke a section off and decided that the next time they went to Adelaide he would take the bones into the South Australian Museum and find out more about what they had discovered.

Six weeks later, Paul did just that.

To his surprise, the jokes had not been far from the truth.

Although they were not the bones of dinosaurs, they were in fact the fossilised remains of Australia's largest marsupial – the Diprotodon – which died about 50,000 years ago.

"As soon as the staff had a look at it they knew exactly what it was," Paul said.

"They took it upstairs where they had another to confirm exactly what we had found."

A team of palaeontologists, including Flinders University students and museum staff, descended on the site and began to investigate. It was not long until excitement spread throughout the group.

It had already been confirmed that the bones were fossilised remains of a Diprotodon, commonly said to have been about the size of a rhinoceros, with features resembling those of a wombat.

"But when they started digging around it, they found another adult beneath it," Paul said.

"They said it was one of the better finds in Australia because it is the whole specimen."

Flinders University Research Associate Aaron Camens says it is one of about 10 complete or near-complete Diprotodon skeletons found in Australia.

"It's actually very rare to find skeletons of this level of completeness," Dr Camens said.

"There are certain parts of the skeleton that have never been found that are present on this specimen." Dr Camens says the dig, which has now been under way since May 2011, forms part of study on megafauna fossils in sediment along the whole eastern flank of the Adelaide and Flinders Ranges and into the Murray Basin.

Specimens have COLLINSVILLE Station in South Australia's Mid North has been synonymous with the Australian wool industry for the past 100 years.

The Merino and Poll Merino Stud has loyal clients across SA, and from the Eastern States down to Tasmania.

Despite its long history, it would hardly be known as the place of prehistoric behemoths – until now.

In Easter 2011, Cousins Merino Services owner Paul Cousins was camping at the station with his family and the Brooks family from East Bungaree Stud.

Paul undertakes sheep classing for Collinsville and was taking some time out for an annual holiday.

"Our families were walking through the creek because it had eroded away fairly well after the big flood," he said.

"At the edge of the creek, about 10 feet deep, was a channel. I looked in and saw these bones sticking out."

The families at first believed them to be horse bones, but they joked around, questioning if Paul had unearthed the fossilised bones of a dinosaur.

"They were good-sized bones. One was part of a hip," Paul said.

Paul broke a section off and decided that the next time they went to Adelaide he would take the bones into the South Australian Museum and find out more about what they had discovered.

Six weeks later, Paul did just that.

To his surprise, the jokes had not been far from the truth.

Although they were not the bones of dinosaurs, they were in fact the fossilised remains of Australia's largest marsupial – the Diprotodon – which died about 50,000 years ago.

"As soon as the staff had a look at it they knew exactly what it was," Paul said.

"They took it upstairs where they had another to confirm exactly what we had found."

A team of palaeontologists, including Flinders University students and museum staff, descended on the site and began to investigate. It was not long until excitement spread throughout the group.

It had already been confirmed that the bones were fossilised remains of a Diprotodon, commonly said to have been about the size of a rhinoceros, with features resembling those of a wombat.

"But when they started digging around it, they found another adult beneath it," Paul said.

"They said it was one of the better finds in Australia because it is the whole specimen."

Flinders University Research Associate Aaron Camens says it is one of about 10 complete or near-complete Diprotodon skeletons found in Australia.

*Full report in Stock Journal, November 15 issue, 2012.

The story Rains reveal Collinsville's mammoth treasure first appeared on Farm Online.

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