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2015 Koolasuchus 25 years

Since its official publication in 1997 (Warren et al) Koolasuchus cleelandi has become a globe trotter. Parts of its skull have travelled as far afield as Sweden and France and it has been scanned more times than most fossils from the Early Cretaceous of Victoria. However, recently it hit the (local) headlines when a group of enthusiastic Dinosaur Dreamers celebrated the 25th anniversary of the discovery of the lower jaws, found by intrepid fossil prospector, Mike Cleeland in 1990.
Mike found the jaws, exposed in the rocky shore platform at a beach known locally as "Rowell's Beach", near San Remo, Victoria. They were not the first evidence of this enigmatic giant amphibian from the Bass Coast, but they provided the most conclusive evidence and allowed palaeontologist Dr. Anne Warren from La Trobe University to identify them as belonging to a totally new genus of extinct amphibian.
It took a team of excavators quite a while to remove the jaws from the rock and then four plucky volunteers carried the giant block on a large hessian sack up the steep hill to the car park. Then came the laborious task of painstakingly removing the rock from around the jaws so that they could be studied. The preparation took around three months and was documented as it progressed. Unfortunately, digital cameras were not available in 1990, so colour photos, some a little blurry, were taken.
The celebration was a joyous occasion with a large cake faithfully depicting Koolasuchus and champagne for everyone to enjoy. Mike Cleeland was the MC for the afternoon and gave a humorous description of his discovery. Lesley Kool spoke about the preparation of the specimens, Tom Rich explained the significance of its name and Museums Victoria's then Vertebrate Palaeontology Collections manager, David Pickering filled in the details of what has happened to the specimen since its discovery.
This celebration was not the only exposure that Koolasuchus has had over the last month. About five years ago a group of Inverloch residents got together to form a committee, headed by Judy Vandenburg, to decide on an appropriate sculpture for a local park. They wanted it to be something special and unique to the area and eventually they decided upon Koolasuchus cleelandi. It took another five years to get approval from the local council and raise the funds to pay a sculptor to create the edifice, but eventually the time came to commence the structure. Lesley Kool was invited to attend the setting up of the sculpture and to provide advice on various features that needed to be included. The sculptor was Philip Stray of Crafted Landscapes who, with assistance from his son Daniel and apprentice Angus, did a great job of making Koolasuchus look as realistic and anatomically accurate as possible.
The resulting sculpture is very impressive. It is a little larger than what we think Koolasuchus may have been, but we felt that this did not detract from the overall impact of the sculpture and provided more surface area on which children could climb or sit. So the next time you visit Inverloch, why not call in to the Wallace Avenue Park and take a few minutes to admire a large animal that lived in the area more than 125 million years ago.

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