1Z14 Thirty Million Years in Melbourne

Tutor/Facilitator Ben Francischelli

Date: on/from Mon 4 Oct 2021 to Mon 4 Oct 2021
Frequency: Single Event
Class time: 1:30-2:30

Delivered ZOOM

Other information

In this session, palaeontologist Ben Francischelli will demonstrate how Melbourne has changed in the last 30 million years. By understanding the fundamental basics of plate tectonics and what once lived in the greater Melbourne region, participants will be able to make sense of deep-time and how evolution works.

The fossil record around Melbourne is extremely diverse. Starting at the beginning of the warm-tropical Oligocene epoch (roughly 30 million years ago), participants will be diving back into the water and coming face to face with terrifying, bus-sized sharks and bizarre baleen whales that have prompted scientists to rethink their entire evolutionary story.

From here, we’ll head to the mid Miocene of 17 million years, where Melbourne is represented by a series of interconnected lagoons. Shark-toothed whales and bizarre penguins swim in these coastal waters, unlike anything seen in the modern era. On the land, giant “Demon Ducks of Doom” and marsupials the size of cows frequent the latest Miocene of roughly 6 million years ago. These incredible animals share ancient Melbourne with the biggest toothed predators of all time, munching whales in their wake. In the latest Pleistocene (roughly 50,000 years ago), the largest marsupial predator evolves on the parched Australian landscape, hunting short-faced kangaroos taller than LeBron James.

By looking at the available evidence, participants will see what it takes to recreate these remarkable animals, and further understand what impact humans are having on the continent.

A Q&A session, following the program, will allow participants to investigate any further topics and/or questions in detail with Ben.


Ben Francischelli is a local vertebrate palaeontologist working on ancient whales and sharks. He has been involved in Museum Victoria’s The Lost World of Bayside Fossils project and is an Education Programs Facilitator at EcoCentre based in St Kilda.

On Zoom


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