Reconstructing the Kronosaurus

Kronosaurus queenslandicus was the largest predatory reptile to swim the seas of western Queensland 105 million years ago. This icon of the paleontological world is thought to have grown up to 11 metres in length, with around two metres of that dedicated to its unusually large skull, containing a mammoth set of jaws and dozens of enormous teeth.

Recently, an opportunity arose for the Queensland Museum to add to the State Collection with the acquisition of two lower jaw pieces from a large individual Kronosaurus. Although the Kronosaurus is an iconic animal, surprisingly little is known about its biology, with skulls and jaws a relatively rare find.

Kronosaurus queenslandicus was named in 1924 by Queensland Museum palaeontologist and former museum Director, Heber Longman, based on a piece of jawbone that was discovered near Hughenden, in central Queensland. It was named after the Greek Titan Kronos; so horrible that he ate his own children. Kronosaurus is a pliosaur, an extinct short-necked marine reptile. Its powerful jaws – which worked in a similar way to a crocodile’s – contain rows of large conical teeth, the biggest of which are nearly 30 centimetres long. Kronosaurus was a fierce predator – remains of its stomach contents found in central western Queensland indicate that it fed on turtles and other long-necked marine reptiles. Kronosaurus fossils have been found in the sediments deposited by the inland seas and turned to rock, ranging in age from 112-100 Million years, during the Early Cretaceous Period.

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This particular specimen was found by a private collector near Boulia in western Queensland and, through negotiations with Dr Andrew Rozefelds, Head of Geosciences, Queensland Museum, was acquired through generous Queensland Museum Foundation donations directed towards object acquisition. The jaw adds to the Queensland Museum’s collection of Kronosaurus specimens. The acquisition of the specimen will ensure that this important piece of Queensland’s geoheritage is preserved in the State Collection for perpetuity. Importantly, it will also provide an opportunity for both researchers and the broader community to get up close to this fascinating specimen.

But as is the case with most specimens of this nature, the jaw was not in perfect condition, which meant that certain work needed to be done before the object could be properly studied, displayed and stored safely within the collection. The main goal for the Geosciences team was to cradle the pieces of fossil as best possible, whilst demonstrating the aspects of the jaw that were missing, especially its teeth. Senior Technical Officer, Ms Debra Lewis took on this meticulous and detailed work.

To present the jaw in a life-like pose whilst also safeguarding it from damage, Debra began work on a bespoke base that would serve the dual purpose of supporting the specimen whilst allowing it to be displayed. Debra said that creating such a base is a lengthy process due to how customised it needs to be.

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“The base is made of timber but each one contains an individual cradle sculpted from polymer plaster to suit the weight, angle and intricacies of each piece of jaw. The cradle was glued to the timber and filled in with expandable polyurethane foam, which was then sanded off to create the shape of the base’s sides. Over that, two layers of fibreglass were carefully applied to give the structure strength. The final step was a coat of paint in a specially chosen shade that would not detract from the ‘hero’, our Kronosaurus jaw.”

As the teeth and part of the bone were missing, careful work was done to demonstrate this as accurately as possible. The teeth were made using 3-D modelling and printing – technology that Dr Scott Hocknull, Senior Curator, Geosciences, has developed within Queensland Museum and has become a key feature of his research and engagement work.

“In this case, the benefits of this technology served as a huge time saver,” said Scott.

The usual method for producing replicas is creating a plasticine sculpture and using that to make a mould and then cast from it. In this case, the process would need to be repeated for each individual tooth – all 16 of them – which Debra and Scott estimate could have taken a month of work or more. The same result using 3-D modelling and printing took about 36 hours, with most of this made up of printing time rather than manual labour. This is achieved through digitally modelling one tooth, then digitally sculpting a 3-D model of each of the 16 teeth. Using photographs of the original tooth, a 3-D model of it was created, which can then be modified and printed out. Debra then hand painted each tooth in a colour that matched the remaining bone. The final piece of the puzzle was to come up with a way that the teeth could be displayed so that it was obvious to viewers which part was original fossil and which was a reconstruction.

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“Part of the bone was missing, so rather than replicating this on top of the original, we decided to use clear perspex rods to place the teeth at the correct height and show the position of the teeth as they would have been in the jaw,” said Debra.

This was done by gluing each newly made replica tooth to a clear rod and placing it into a small indentation drilled into the matrix (a build-up of rock where the tooth would have sat) so that the rod would fit snugly and can easily be removed and replaced. So where to from here for our “revamped” Kronosaurus jaw?

The Geosciences team hope that the specimen will go on display, possibly within the permanent Lost Creatures exhibition at Queensland Museum, where it can be enjoyed by visitors. It is currently available to researchers and is being studied by a PhD student, who has been 3-D scanning the pieces of the jaw to reconstruct the animal digitally and learn more about its palaeobiology. Of course, a scientist’s work is never truly done – there is always more to learn and new examples of these extinct species to be unearthed, which in turn will bring new opportunities for research and discovery.

“We’ve known about the enigmatic Kronosaurus for a long time – hopefully we can continue to find out more about this icon of the Cretaceous inland sea,” said Scott.

Queensland Museum Guide To The Gifts That Keep On Giving

December is here and the festive season has already begun! At Queensland Museum Shop you’ll find timeless, high-quality pieces and a huge range of unique gifts for your family. To help you win the ‘best gift-giver’ title, we’ve hand-picked special objects and curated gift guides tailored to all ages, curiosities, loves and passions.

Every purchase supports the important work we do at Queensland Museum and helps us care for our precious collections, bring you amazing exhibitions and experiences, and tell fascinating Queensland stories.

For the Water Warrior who soaks up marine life like a sea sponge:

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If you know someone crazy for the big blue, they’ll love these oceanic gifts. Our educational books feature breath-taking imagery of marine life with a focus on Queensland’s rich coastal diversity. For the little scientist, our coral reef science kits will be a crowd-pleaser and our lifelike cuddly creatures are perfect for little ones to learn as they play.

Featured: Giant Squid Plush Toy, Hug’ems Sea Turtle Plush Toy, Wild Guide to Moreton Bay (Book), The Great Barrier Reef (Book), Green Sea Turtle Plush Toy, Humpback Whale Plush Toy, Tilly’s Reef Adventure (Book), Coral Reef Science Kit, and Whale Shark.

For the Natural Nomad who’s always on the move:

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Explorers, history and culture buffs will love our best-selling wild guides to inspire their next adventure. Send them off in style with practical yet well-designed travelling essentials, which they can use for years to come.

Featured: Soap Nuts, In Search Of Ancient Queensland (Book), Rare Rabbit Clouds Scarf, Rare Rabbit Voyager Wallet, Brisbane’s Best Bush, Bay and City Walks (Book), Eco Friendly Bamboo Toothbrush,Wildlife of Greater Brisbane (Book), Eco Friendly Bamboo Toothbrush Holder and Rainbow Aura Quartz Geode Large

For the Dinosaur Devotee, lover of all things prehistoric: 

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We all know one! Get up close and personal with our huge range of lifelike, hand painted figurines, even approved by a palaeo imagery expert! For the little learners, our dinosaur-themed educational kits and interactive games will highlight fun facts on the extinct species that they never knew before.

Featured: Mini Spinosaurus Plush Toy, 1:20 Scale Dimetrodon Model, Tyrannosaurus Model, Brachiosaurus Model, Discover Dinosaurs Educational Set, Flip-O-Saurus (Book), T-Rex Hand Puppet, Beastly Tyrannosaurus Binoculars, Australian Dinosaur Hatching Egg, 1:40 Scale Kronosaurus Model, Dinosaur Snap Cards and 1:40 Scale Spinosaurus Model.

For the Problem Solver who leaves no problem unsolved:

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Brainiacs will love these gifts that will get their synapses firing and provide hours of entertainment! Choose from coding and robotics kits, a ‘build your own’ musical instrument, wacky science experiments, puzzle builders and so much more.

Featured: Tobbie the Robot, Scientist Academy (book), Quercetti Saxoflute, Kidz Motorised Robot Hand, Coder Academy (Book), more products available in store.

For the Serious Scientist who loves to play, test, observe:  

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Fuel their creativity with these curious and colourful picks.  Our range of puzzles and games demonstrate how science works in the real world. Or if they loved visiting our SparkLab Sciencentre and haven’t been able to stop talking about it, make them the ultimate science ambassador with our geek chic cap and drink bottle. Pair it with an Annual Pass for the gift that keeps giving all year round.

Featured: Rainbow Spring SlinkySparkLab Cap, SparkLab Drink Bottle, Periodic Table T-ShirtHoberman Mini Sphere, Mini Periodic Table Book (in-store only), Glass Prism, Periodic Table Mug, Galt Octons.

For the animal aficionado who’s especially mad for monkeys:

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If they love monkeys and primates be sure to surprise them with an adorable tote bag, tee or plush toy so they can take a little piece of the museum with them wherever they go.

Featured: Squirrel Monkey Plush Toy, Monkey Business AffirmationsMonkeys Kids’ T-Shirt, Tumbling Monkey (in-store only), Nature Buddies Mini Monkey Plush ToyMonkeys Tote Bag, The Educated Monkey Calculator and Never Smile at a Monkey (Book). 

For the History Buff who’s never finished learning:

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The obvious choice for those fascinated by Queensland wartime history, Mephisto, the last remaining German tank in the world and the stories of our Anzacs. The museum’s diverse range of books, trinkets and commemorative items covers off on everything from planes and tanks to incredible untold tales. These gifts help tell the story of Queensland and give a deeper meaning to our community.

Featured: Victoria Cross Pencil and Pencil TopperThe Missing Man (Book), Mephisto: Technology, War and Remembrance Paperback Edition and Hardcover Edition (Book), Pompey Elliott At War (Book), Victoria Cross Badge, Spitfire Pencil Sharpener (in-store only), Monash: The Outsider Who Won a War (Book), Pocket Guide: A7V Mephisto, The Great War Soldier’s Badge (in-store only), Amazing Australians in Their Flying Machines (Book), Tank in a Tin and Voices from the Second World War (Book).

Still can’t decide? Visit Queensland Museum Shop online or in person for more inspiration. And for that person who’s tricky to buy for, we offer Annual Passes so they can experience the best of Queensland Museum all year round!

 

Stories in living colour

By Dr Geraldine Mate, Principal Curator, History, Industry and Technology, Queensland Museum

When I was asked to say a few words at the opening of the new Anzac Legacy Gallery, I thought “yes, that would be great”…then they said three to four minutes and I thought that would be impossible. I could talk for an hour, but how could I fit so many incredible stories into four minutes?!

And there are literally hundreds of incredible stories. Stories about bravery under fire, quiet moments in war, about women who cared enough to devote months and even years of their lives to giving to others, of cruel internment, of men who stoically bore injuries and illness as an aftermath of war, and of those who never returned.

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This gallery, however, is not just one of wartime one hundred years ago. It’s also about the Queensland we live in today, a Queensland where unexpected events are tied by filaments back to the First World War, where tea cosies, place names and even robots can be seen through the lens of time as having a link to the war.

But this war, and its link to Queensland, was not in sepia, or black and white, but affected and embroiled real people. And people are at the centre of the stories presented here, stories that we are privileged to be able to tell. These stories could not be told without the objects that were loaned and or donated to us by the descendants of the original owners of the special objects that make up the gallery.

I would like to thank all of you, from the bottom of my heart, for your involvement in the gallery – in ways both big and small. It may not seem much at times – a phone conversation about your grandparents, lending us a photograph, or coming in briefly to look at something donated years ago – but for me as one of the curators for the gallery, it meant an enormous amount, allowing us to get a more personal glimpse into the lives of the men and women we are telling these stories about.

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This would be a good point to acknowledge that this gallery is first and foremost a team effort. There were a large number of Curators and collection managers involved over the course of the project, as well as other colleagues in different roles who brought the project together. The project management team, Graphic Design, Exhibition Design, the Exhibition Services team, our amazing Conservation team, and last but by no means least the teams at Architectus and Romeo who brought the curatorial vision to life.

That’s one of the exciting things about doing an exhibition. You start out with a single idea – “let’s do a gallery about World War One and its impact in Queensland”. There’s the discovery phase where you look at the objects in the collection and reveal the stories about them; the hard graft stage where you write the stories, finalise the object selection, and choose photographs, and write some more; the creative phase where you work with designers to create a space that suits the gallery and case layouts that tell the stories to their best advantage; and then the final push to get objects conserved, to build and install cases, and polish the glass before opening day. As a curator, it’s pretty exciting seeing the objects and stories that have going around in your head for months or even years suddenly before you, in three dimensions and living colour.

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The idea of living colour was particularly important to me as a way to connect in the gallery with the real life stories, and this was an objective for us ­– connecting with the people – the men and women who were part of the war, or lived with its aftermath, and those who have continued to impact Queensland today.

Women like Elsie Wright who by day helped her husband farm on their soldier settlement block after his return from the war, and by night embroidered to support their family. Men like Caleb Shang, a book-keeper from Cairns who was awarded the DCM, or Henry Dalziel, an apprentice in the Railways from Atherton, who was awarded the Victoria Cross.

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These stories are yours – the families of the men and women who’s lives we reveal a little of in this gallery. Thank you again for your donations, stories and photographs. Thank you for the privilege of a small glimpse into your family’s history. I hope you enjoy the gallery, and feel proud of the stories we are telling of your loved ones to the many, many people who visit Queensland Museum.

As you look around the exhibition we hope that you find a touch point – perhaps in a story, funny or poignant, or in the sheer size of the undertaking of war and the long impact of the war in Queensland; and that you leave with a new view of the Legacy of our Anzacs.

Been missing our Discovery Centre critters?

Never fear, they’re all still here and safely tucked away behind the scenes throughout the Discovery Centre’s renovation. Our staff continue to bring in the tasty eats they like best – bundles of fresh gum leaves for our stick insects, dried leaves for the giant cockroaches and even frozen rats for our green tree pythons. The baby scorpions, born in the museum, are thriving on a diet of tiny crickets.

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The museum’s display and research specimens need to be kept in a controlled climate so they do not deteriorate, meaning that the museum is constantly air conditioned. But our live animals require humidity and every morning their enclosures receive a fine spray of water to keep them happy and healthy.

The stick insects continue to lay eggs daily. These are sorted from the droppings and leaf fragments and placed into separate containers, and every morning there are new hatchling nymphs to care for.  The nymphs live in separate enclosures of gum leaves, away from the adults, to make them easier to look after and avoid ‘throwing the baby out with the bath water’ when there’s a change of foliage.

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It seems that some of the animals are making the most of their well-earned break from the constant public gaze. The cockroaches have given birth to live young, so the leaves in their enclosure are now resounding with the pitter-patter of tiny new feet!

Can the live animals still be seen? Yes, during our Daily Discoveries at 11.00am and 2.00pm we often bring some of them out to meet the public. You can even find out what’s on in advance if you call us on (07) 3840 7555. The schedule may be subject to change – but whatever is on – it’s always bound to be interesting!

Daily discoveries are coming to you

While the Discovery Centre is being renovated our most popular displays are still on show. Every day at 11.00am and 2.00pm our amazing Daily Discoveries will pop up anywhere! So keep an eye out for them these school holidays…

Get up close and personal with a stick insect! We have Goliath Stick Insects, among the largest insects in Australia, breeding here in the museum. There are also Children’s Stick Insects, which look like gum leaves, and bizarre Spiny Leaf Insects, with ragged leafy legs to resemble dead leaves. You will be amazed at how our stick insects have truly mastered the art of camouflage. You can even help us sort their eggs, and count the tiny nymphs that hatch out here every day.

Or maybe you prefer fossils? Fancy holding a Diprotodon tooth? That was the biggest marsupial that ever lived, a bit like a giant wombat, so it’s pretty impressive. Fossil bones of this animal turn up in many parts of Queensland. For that matter, how can you tell if a piece of rock is actually fossil bone? How are fossils formed? What’s a pseudofossil? You will find out the answers to these and much more.

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This month there will be some monkey business as we welcome Monkeys! A Primate Story, opening 29 September. This new exhibition lets you learn about our shared evolutionary history, and the weird and wonderful mammals that make up the primate family tree. We have some fascinating skulls to share as part of our Daily Discoveries, featuring our distant and not so distant relatives.  Did you know a tarsier has eyes so big they cannot move in their sockets? Or that male mandrill teeth are fearfully large and sharp to terrify their rivals? Subjects change regularly so always be prepared for something new.

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So where do you find us?  We display various objects on a mobile trolley so we get around. Ask our floor staff and they will be happy to point you in the right direction, or you can look for the Daily Discoveries banner on Levels 2 and 4. And make sure you bring your curiosity because there is plenty to learn in our Daily Discoveries!

‘Primate lineup’ – can you identify our distant and not so distant relatives from their replica primate skulls

24 – 28 September and 1 – 5 October

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Discover the spark for science at Queensland Museum

Young scientist don’t have to wait any longer to wait to explore their curiosity at SparkLab, Sciencentre at Queensland Museum. The brand new interactive exhibition is now open to all those curious! The new multi-million dollar interactive gallery will allow visitors to unleash their inner scientist through 40 interactive exhibitions across three zones.

Continue reading Discover the spark for science at Queensland Museum

Flying antennae

The helpful and knowledgeable staff of the Queensland Museum Network often assist members of the public with the identification of insect, animal, fossil and geological specimens. Our experts also answer questions about Queensland’s animals, rocks and fossils, people and history. In this section, we share some of these questions and answers with our readers.   

QUESTION:
I found this intriguing-looking insect in a sealed tank of tadpoles. Is it a cranefly and if so, how did it get there? Is that long extension from the head incredibly long antennae or its proboscis? I can’t see whether the point of attachment is the head or mouth!

Continue reading Flying antennae