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Australian Fossil Mammal Sites (Naracoorte), Naracoorte, SA, Australia

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List World Heritage List
Class Natural
Legal Status Declared property (17/12/1994)
Place ID 105089
Place File No 3/11/164/0006
Statement of Significance
For the official statement of Outstanding Universal Value see the UNESCO site http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/698
 
Official Values
Criterion (IX) Outstanding examples of on-going evolution
Naracoorte is an outstanding example representing significant ongoing ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of Australia's mammal fauna, including a record of faunal change spanning two ice ages, highlighting the impacts of both climatic change and man on Australia's mammals.
The World Heritage values of Naracoorte include the cave fauna deposits which includes fossil assemblages and sequences that:
  • date to the middle to late Pleistocene period, providing an important southern hemisphere site for the study of megafaunal extinction;
  • provide a window on faunal change spanning at least two ice ages and culminating in the appearance of humans on the Australian continent;
  • include representation of unique Gondwanan groups such as extinct madtsoiid snakes and monotremes due to the high quality of the preservation of most of the fossil material;
  • include a large quantity of individuals represented and a high quality of preservation due to the deposition of the fossils in a "pit fall trap" environment;
  • provide further evidence that the Australian fauna has evolved mainly in isolation;
  • are important in understanding the impacts of Milankovitch climatic cycles and humans on Australia's mammal fauna; and
  • include DNA which has been found and extracted from examples of the fossil material with a view to reconstructing detailed phylogenies for the extinct thylacoleonids (marsupial lions) and the extinct browsing sthenurine kangaroos.
 
Criterion (VIII) Outstanding examples of stages of earth's history
The World Heritage values of Naracoorte include fossil deposits which:
  • include abundant and diverse fossils, including complete crania and disarticulated skeletons representing most age classes of the known extinct late Pleistocene mammals of Australia;
  • span the middle to late Pleistocene time period, representing the development of modern fauna; and
  • have a high quality of preservation which enables both reconstruction and detailed anatomical descriptions and functional morphology of both crania and post-cranial skeletal elements.
 
Description
Naracoorte is located in flat country, punctuated by a series of stranded coastal dune ridges that run parallel to the present coastline. The region is one of covered karst. The caves ofthe Naracoorte Caves Conservation Park are formed in a ridge of Oligo-Miocene Gambier limestone capped by the Naracoorte East Dune. In the Late Pleistocene the caves were open to the surface allowing sediment and bones to accumulate in their entrances and dolines, the most significant of these accumulations being those of Victoria Fossil Cave. The south-east region's natural history, including its geography, hydrology, ecosystems and flora and fauna has been described in detail in Tyler et al. (1983).
Climate
Naracoorte has a cool, moist climate with long, mild, relatively dry summers and maximum rainfall occurring in winter. Riversleigh experiences dry winters and cool summers with monsoonal rainfall.
Fauna
The Pleistocene fossil vertebrate deposits of Victoria Fossil Cave at Naracoorte are considered to be, in terms of both volume and diversity, Australia's largest and best preserved (Wells et al. 1984), and one of the richest deposits of in the world (Wells, 1975). From the 3-4m deep Fossil Bed, tens of thousands of specimens representing at least 93 vertebrate species have been recovered, ranging in size from very small frogs to buffalo-sized marsupials. These include superbly preserved examples of the Australian Ice-Age megafauna as well as a host of essentially modern species such as the Tasmanian Devil and Thylacine, wallabies, possums, bettongs, mice, bats, snakes, parrots, turtles, lizards and frogs. The fossil material includes complete postcranial remains (many of which are partially articulated) and skulls so well preserved that even the most delicate bones are still intact. The fossil remains are believed to have steadily accumulated over thousands of years until sediment pouring into the Cave completely blocked the entrances to the chambers.

History Not Available
Condition and Integrity Not Available
Location
About 300ha, 11km south-south-east of Naracoorte, comprising those parts of Naracoorte Caves National Park inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1994.
Bibliography
Archer, M. et al (1986) Uncovering Australia's Dreamtime  Surrey Beatty, Chipping North NSW.
Cochrane, R.M. and Joyce, E.B. (1986) Geological Features of National and International Significance in Australia  Australian Heritage Commission, Canberra.
Gould, S.J. (1993) The Book of Life  Ebury Hutchinson, London.
Rich, P.V. and van Tets, G.F. (1985) Kadimakara: Extinct Vertebrates of Australia  Pioneer, Lilydale.
Wells, R.T. et al (1984) The fossil vertebrate deposits of Victoria Fossil Cave: an introduction to the geology and fauna  in  Aust Zool 21(4): pp 305-33.
 

Report Produced  Sat Aug 23 09:50:47 2014