Following a public vote, Koolasuchus a giant temnospondyl from the Early Cretaceous has been declared the State fossil of Victoria. The huge amphibian, perhaps the very last of its kind, thrived in the cool conditions of southern Australia. During the Early Cretaceous, Australia was located at a much higher latitude than it is today, it was within the Antarctic Circle. The cool climate prevented crocodilians from inhabiting the region and their absence permitted one of the last of the temnospondyls to occupy the crocodilian niche in the ancient ecosystem.

Koolasuchus life reconstruction
A life reconstruction of Koolasuchus cleelandi, the State fossil of Victoria. Picture credit: Peter Trusler.

Koolasuchus cleelandi

Acknowledging the result of the public vote which took place last August (August 2021), Lynley Crosswell, CEO and Director, Museums Victoria commented:

“Victorian state emblems recognise and celebrate the natural history of our region. Museums Victoria is renowned for our palaeontology collection with exceptional fossils from internationally significant fossil sites across Victoria. We are the custodian of these fossils, we display them, research them and keep them safe for future generations to learn from. Koolasuchus cleelandi is of global significance and it provides clues to the evolution of life on Earth and the past environments of Victoria.”

Koolasuchus was named and described in 1997, from fragmentary fossil material including elements from the huge lower jaw that had been found south of Melbourne. The species name honours Australian geologist Mike Cleeland for his work for helping to plot and map the geology of Australia.

This huge amphibian, that probably favoured fast flowing streams and rivers, came to greater prominence when it featured in episode five of the ground-breaking BBC documentary series “Walking with Dinosaurs”. The episode, entitled “Spirits of the Silent Forest” looked at the remarkable biota associated with southern Australia in the Early Cretaceous.

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