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Where is Canowindra?

Canowindra is a town in central-west New South Wales, 300 km west of Sydney.

Why is Canowindra important?

The Canowindra fauna is a very rich Late Devonian fish fauna. All of the fossil specimens are preserved on a single bedding plane, part of an ancient fish community which had been trapped in a pool of water which dried up, killing the fish. Incoming sediments later buried these fishes quickly and quietly, with minor disturbance to the fish skeletons. The Canowindra site is listed as part of Australia's National Heritage because of its international scientific importance.

Fossil time period: Canowindra

The Devonian Period (416 - 359 million years ago) is known as the Age of Fishes, since the aquatic and marine environments were populated by large numbers and varieties of fishes. Only later in the Devonian did the first tetrapods (four legged animals) appear. Plants were establishing themselves on land and by the Late Devonian some had reached tree size. Australia, as a part of the super-continent Pangaea, was drifting southwards away from the equator and was thus experiencing a general cooling. There was also general uplift and by the Late Devonian there was less marine sedimentation but extensive terrestrial sedimentary basins, particularly in the east.

Canowindra fossils

The fauna is dominated by two species of antiarch placoderms (armoured fishes), Bothriolepis and Remigolepis (97% of the fauna). Groenlandaspis, an arthrodiran placoderm, is much rarer, with only about 50 specimens recovered. The sarcopterygians (lobe-finned fishes) are even rarer, with the remains of approximately 20 individuals so far noted. Along with Canowindra grossi, the sarcopterygian taxa Mandageria fairfaxi Johanson & Ahlberg, 1997, Cabonnichthys burnsi Ahlberg & Johanson, 1997, Gooloogongia loomesi Johanson & Ahlberg, 1998 and Soederberghia simpsoni Ahlberg et al., 2001 have been described. Soederberghia simpsoni is a lungfish, a group with a good fossil record, but today known only from three genera in South America, Africa and Australia (the Queensland lungfish, Neoceratodus). Soederberghia is also known from a Late Devonian locality near Forbes, New South Wales, and from Pennsylvania, U.S.A. and East Greenland.