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Prehistoric Chinchilla was wonderful and weird

OLD BONES: Toby and Mark King looking for fossils at the 2016 World Science Festival Brisbane Chinchilla Regional Event.
OLD BONES: Toby and Mark King looking for fossils at the 2016 World Science Festival Brisbane Chinchilla Regional Event. Matthew Newton

IF YOU'VE ever imagined what a prehistoric, giant meat-eating koala crossed with a wombat looks like, head to the World Science Festival when it lands in Chinchilla on March 31 and you might find out.

Audiences are being treated to a collection of unique fossils and mega fauna found in the Chinchilla region, which until now has never left the Queensland Museum.

Led by senior curator of geoscience Scott Hocknull, the Queensland Museum team is bringing five cases of original specimens that have been collected over the past 150 years.

The Prehistoric Chinchilla exhibit is interactive and designed to help visitors understand what it might have been like living in Chinchilla three to four million years ago.

"We're bringing five cases full of original material, it's not just a display that people walk around,” Mr Hocknull said.

"You will be able to touch material and touch stuff for real.

"The vast majority of the bones will be real and we will be using 3D technology as well, because some of them are too fragile to handle or they are one of a kind or they are just way too small to see with the human eye.”

Visitors will also learn the painstaking process of sorting, where they will experience looking through fossil site sediments under a magnifying lamp.

Mr Hocknull, a vertebrate palaeontologist, said prehistoric Chinchilla was home to a wide range of "weird and wonderful species that beggar belief when you actually see them”.

"I can tell you that they are not dinosaurs, it happened well and truly after dinosaurs,” he said.

"Three to four million years ago Chinchilla was a very different place, imaginegiant lizards and crocodiles, mega kangaroos and a wombat crossed with a koala eating meat like a lioness.”

Chinchilla's fossil sites are considered to be scientifically significant among experts in Australia and internationally.

"We're excited to come out for World Science Festival,” Mr Hocknull said.

"We were there last year and realised that people were really excited to hear about what was in their own backyard, people know about it but no one really ... understands the value of it.”

He said scientists continued to find wonderful animals in the Chinchilla area and that there was "still a lifetime of work to be done”.

"Chinchilla fills a massive gap to our understanding,” Mr Hocknull said.


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