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Plenary - Matthew McCurry - Palaeoecology and taphonomy of the McGraths Flat Lagerstätte

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Please join us for this Plenary talk by Matthew McCurry at the State Library Theatre.

Abstract. The recent discovery of McGraths Flat, an exceptionally well-preserved fossil deposit from New South Wales, has provided new insight into the palaeoecology of Miocene mesic ecosystems and the taphonomy of iron-rich fossil deposits. This talk will provide an overview and update of the discoveries being made at McGraths Flat. This Konservat-Lagerstätte hosts a rich diversity of microfossils, plants, fungi, insects, spiders, and vertebrate remains. The age of the deposit (16–11 Ma) has been determined using SEM imaging of microfossils on the surface of the goethite-rich sediments. We also used a combination of automated electron microscopy imaging and citizen science for the analysis of microfossils. The replacement with goethite has resulted in exceptional preservation of internal soft tissues and structures. Representative examples of fossils from the deposit (including a mygalomorph spider, a retropinnid fish and a bee) will be used to showcase the value of exceptionally preserved fossils for our understanding of the recent past. We propose a taphonomic model for the preservation of the fossil site based on preliminary geochemical analyses, faunal analyses and field mapping. Our analyses suggest that the iron in the deposit derived from nearby basalts that accumulated in the waters of an oxbow lake before precipitating to encase a wide variety of animal and plant species.

Bio. Dr Matthew McCurry is a vertebrate palaeontologist employed at The Australian Museum and The University of New South Wales. His work has focused on understand the ecology of extinct species using direct evidence from fossils as well as biomechanical analyses. In 2022 he led a paper documenting a new Miocene Lagerstätte named McGraths Flat. The site has yielded many interesting discoveries that will form the basis of his talk.

The talk will be 45-50 minutes long followed by questions.

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