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The great English broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough visited the famous fish fossil near Canowindra in the NSW Central West in July 2013 during a speaking tour of Australia.
He acclaimed Canowindras fossil site as being "world class". He praised the local community for setting up the Age of Fishes Museum to showcase the fossils discovered during diggings at the site, pointing out that these fossil displays were not small ones but in fact weighed tons.
Sir David explained how impressed he was by the sheer quantity of the fish fossils found at the Canowindra site:
"I cant claim to be an expert on the Devonian fish but I do know a few sites and [with] most Devonian fish that I know, you come across them as complete things, one here and one there, and you have to chip you way through an acre of rock and find nothing at all.
What you have here [in Canowindra] is literally dozens and ... hundreds of these things piled in one another. Why? Because they were in a pool that was drying up and this was a shoal that got trapped there."
Sir David was accompanied by his visit by the paleontologist Dr Alex Ritchie, the scholar who had organised the major dig at the site exactly 20 years earlier.
Dr Ritchie lamented that 90% of the fossils found in the locality were unable to be displayed in the Museum but had to be stored in "fairly dreadful conditions" under the grandstand in the Canowindra showground.
He added that "there is no other known fossil site of this age anywhere in the world that compares to Canowindra and there just waiting to be dug up and turned into a major tourist and educational research facility."
Sir David agreed, saying that the fossil find of the Canowindra area "deserves even more than theyve got here [in the Museum]". He was aware that there were up to 20,000 more fossils in the site which had not been excavated further due to lack of funds and that sadly Sydneys Australian Museum had recently reduced the budget allocated to the Age of Fishes Museum.
According to Sir David, fossils are important as they are the evidence of the history of life. Life began 2000-3000 million years ago and as you cast your mind back over these aeons of time, you will come across these little things -- these fossils -- and realize that it is from those that we ultimately came from.
The Ages of Fishes Museum, Canowindra - and Why its Fish Fossils are So Important
Brisbane Times video on Attenborough's visit to Canowindra
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Author: David Paul Wagner
(David Paul Wagner on Google+)