|Australian Fossil Mammal Sites (Riversleigh)|
|Name as inscribed on the World Heritage List|
|Inscription||1994 (18th Session)|
The fossils at Riversleigh are rare because they are found in soft freshwater limestone which hasn't been compressed. This means the animal remains retain their three dimensional structure. The area is located within the catchment of the Gregory River.
Fossils were first noted to exist in the area in 1901. An initial exploration survey was conducted in 1963. Since 1976 the area has been the subject of systemic exploration. The site was inscribed as a World Heritage site in 1994 and is an extension of the Boodjamulla National Park.
Fossils at Riversleigh are found in limestone by lime-rich freshwater pools, and in caves, when the ecosystem was evolving from rich rainforest to semi-arid grassland community. Some of the fossils at Riversleigh are 25 million years old. High concentrations of calcium carbonate has meant the fossils are extremely well preserved. The fossil collection reveals mammalian evolution across a time span of more than 20 million years. There are more than 200 individual locations where fossils have been found. The fossil record here is significant because it provides evidence on evolution and the distribution of species across Gondwana.
The skull and nearly complete dentition of a fifteen million-year-old monotreme, Obdurodon dicksoni, provide a window into the evolution of this characteristically Australian group. Fossil ancestors of the recently extinct thylacine, Thylacinus cynocephalus, have also been identified among Riversleigh's fauna. In 1993, Nimbadon skulls were unearthed in a previously unknown cave in the region. Researchers estimate that the prehistoric marsupial first appeared about 15 million years ago and died out about 12 million years ago, perhaps from climate change induced losses in habitat.
Other fossils have provided evidence of how the koala has evolved in response to Australia's change from predominant rainforest vegetation to drier eucalypt forests. Some fossil insects and plants have also been discovered.
- Ekaltadeta, a carnivorous rat-kangaroo
- Burramys, the Mountain Pygmy Possum
- Nimbacinus, a precursor of the Thylacine
- Obdurodon, a giant platypus
- Yarala, a tube-nosed bandicoot
- Yalkaparidon, a bizarre marsupial
- Wakaleo, a marsupial lion
- Priscileo, a marsupial lion
- Nimiokoala, an ancient koala
- Nimbadon, a sheep-like browser
- Pengana, a flexible-footed bird of prey
- Menura tyawanoides, a prehistoric lyrebird
- The first fossil record of the Orthonychidae (logrunner) family
- Trilophosuchus, a tree-dwelling crocodile
- Baru, the cleaver-headed crocodile
- Yurlunggur, and Wonambi, extinct snakes (Madtsoiidae)
Scientific studies are mostly conducted by a group of palaeontologists from the University of New South Wales. Mike Archer is a paleontologist who has been working at Riversleigh since 1983. He and his co-workers discovered that diluted acetic acid was the most effective method of extracting fossils.
- Archer M; Hand, Suzanne J. & Godthelp H.  2000. Australia's lost world: Riversleigh, World Heritage Site. Reed, Sydney.
- Anna Salleh (16 February 2006). "Huge skulls clues to snake evolution". ABC Science (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). Retrieved 5 August 2010.
- "Australian Fossil Mammal Site - Riversleigh more information". Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. 15 May 2008. Retrieved 28 July 2012.
- The Australian Heritage Council (2012). Australia' Fossil Heritage: A Catalogue of Important Australian Fossil Sites. Csiro Publishing. pp. 43—44. ISBN 0643102302. Retrieved 28 July 2012.
- "Riversleigh World Heritage Site, Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park: Nature, culture and history". Department of Environment and Resource Management. 14 December 2011. Retrieved 28 July 2012.
- "Cave yields marsupial fossil haul". BBC News. 19 July 2010. Retrieved 5 August 2010.
- Fossils reveal prehistoric life cycle. Australian Geographic. 20 July 2010.
- Dan Gaffney (19 December 2009). "Loud and lazy but didn't chew gum: Ancient koalas". PhysOrg (PhysOrg.com). Retrieved 5 August 2010.
- Archer, M. et al. 1991. Riversleigh: the Story of Australia's Inland Rainforests, (Sydney: Reed Books).
- World heritage listing for Riversleigh
- UNESCO site with information on Riversleigh, Australia
- Information about fossils from Riversleigh, Australian Museum
- The Riversleigh Society supports scientific research at Riversleigh