A selection of stunning opalised fossils from Lightning Ridge Top: A ‘yabby button’ from a freshwater crayfish; pine cone; crocodile tooth; theropod dinosaur tooth. Bottom: pine cone; snail; turtle vertebra; sauropod dinosaur tooth. IMAGE CREDIT: Robert A. Smith/Australian Opal Centre
Australian Geographic has an interesting post on the opalized fossils of Lightning Ridge in Australia. The post is a first person journal entry on a visit to the locality.
I’D NEVER BEEN on an outback dig before, so travelling to the mining town of Lightning Ridge to spend a week working with Australian Opal Centre (AOC) scientists was an exciting proposition.
I’d first contacted palaeontologists Jenni Brammall and Dr Elizabeth Smith about opalised fossils in 2008, and I’d seen pictures of the eye-popping specimens in their collections, so I was looking forward to meeting them in person.
I arrived on a hot October afternoon in 2014 for a week of searching for, sorting and identifying fossils, alongside Jenni, Elizabeth, Dr Phil Bell – a palaeontologist at the University of New England (UNE) in Armidale – and an eager group of volunteers from all walks of life.
It sounds like something from fiction, but found across Australia’s opal fields are the fossils of dinosaurs and other creatures preserved as precious opal – some are incredibly beautiful, gem-quality specimens worth tens of thousands of dollars.
Opalised fossils are found around other opal field towns, such as White Cliffs in NSW and Coober Pedy in South Australia, but Lightning Ridge has the greatest number and diversity. It is one of the most productive and scientifically significant fossil sites in the country, and the only major site in NSW with dinosaurs.