koolasuchus rides again


koolasuchus rides again
Since its official publication in 1997 (Warren et al) Koolasuchus cleelandi has
become a globe trotter. Parts of its skull have travelled as far afield as Sweden and
France and it has been scanned more times than most fossils from the Early
Cretaceous of Victoria. However, recently it hit the (local) headlines when a group of
enthusiastic Dinosaur Dreamers celebrated the 25th anniversary of the discovery of
the lower jaws, found by intrepid fossil prospector, Mike Cleeland in 1990.
Mike found the jaws, exposed in the rocky shore platform at a beach known locally as
“Rowell’s Beach”, near San Remo, Victoria. They were not the first evidence of this
enigmatic giant amphibian from the Bass Coast, but they provided the most
conclusive evidence and allowed palaeontologist Dr. Anne Warren from La Trobe
University to identify them as belonging to a totally new genus of extinct amphibian.
It took a team of excavators quite a while to remove the jaws from the rock and then
four plucky volunteers carried the giant block on a large hessian sack up the steep
hill to the car park. Then came the laborious task of painstakingly removing the rock
from around the jaws so that they could be studied. The preparation took around
three months and was documented as it progressed. Unfortunately digital cameras
were not available in 1990, so colour photos, some a little blurry, were taken.
The celebration was a joyous occasion with a large cake faithfully depicting
Koolasuchus and champagne for everyone to enjoy. Mike Cleeland was the MC for
the afternoon and gave a humorous description of his discovery. Lesley Kool spoke
about the preparation of the specimens, Tom Rich explained the significance of its
name and Museum Victoria’s Vertebrate Palaeontology Collections manager, David
Pickering filled in the details of what has happened to the specimen since its
This celebration was not the only exposure that Koolasuchus has had over the last
month. About five years ago a group of Inverloch residents got together to form a
committee, headed by Judy Vandenburg, to decide on an appropriate sculpture for a
local park. They wanted it to be something special and unique to the area and
eventually they decided upon Koolasuchus cleelandi. It took another five years to get
approval from the local council and raise the funds to pay a sculptor to create the
edifice, but eventually the time came to commence the structure. I (LK) was invited to
attend the setting up of the sculpture and to provide advice on various features that
needed to be included. The sculptor was Philip Stray of Crafted Landscapes
(www.craftedlandscapes.com.au) who, with assistance from his son Daniel and
apprentice Angus, did a great job of making Koolasuchus look as realistic and
anatomically accurate as possible.
The resulting sculpture is very impressive. It is a little larger than what we think
Koolasuchus may have been, but we felt that this did not detract from the overall
impact of the sculpture and provided more surface area on which children could
climb or sit. So the next time you visit Inverloch, why not call in to the Wallace
Avenue Park and take a few minutes to admire a large animal that lived in the area
more than 125 million years ago.
Shaping the Koolasuchus cleelandi sculpture at Wallace Avenue Park, Inverloch.
Photographer: Lesley Kool
Angus, Phil and Dan putting the finishing touches to Koolasuchus
Photographer: Lesley Kool
Dan and Phil unveiling the Koolasuchus head.
Photographer: Lesley Kool
Daniel adding detail to the head of Koolasuchus.
Photographer: Lesley Kool
Koolasuchus unveiled.
Photographer: Phil Stray
Display table at the Koolasuchus celebration, San Remo.
Photographer: Lesley Kool
Koolasuchus cake.
Photographer Lesley Kool.
Mike Cleeland cutting the Koolasuchus cake.
Photographer: Wendy White
Mike and Lesley talking about their fossil.
Photographer: Wendy White.