The Australian fossil mammal sites (Riversleigh/Naracoorte) World Heritage Area was inscribed in 1994 for its outstanding representation of the evolution of Australian mammals and the quality of the fossils, which are preserved in limestone. The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service manages the Riversleigh Section, which covers 10,000 ha of land in the southern section of Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park in north-west Queensland. The Naracoorte Section is over 2000 km away in South Australia.
Riversleigh was placed on the world heritage list because it:
- represents a major stage of the earth's evolutionary history
- is an outstanding example of ongoing ecological and biological processes.
Its fossil deposits are among the richest and most extensive in the world, with some dating back to the Oligo-Miocene time, 15–25 million years ago. D Site, where visitors can see fossilised mammals and reptiles in situ, was one of the first fossil deposits found and is the only area open to the public.
At the Riversleigh Fossil Centre visitors can gain an insight into the region as it was 25 million years ago, and into the process of fossilisation, and a visit there is highly recommended.
Research is helping us understand how the animals coped when the environment changed dramatically from lush wet rainforests to dry grasslands. It is hoped that further research will not only discover new species of extinct fauna, but also help to conserve our mammals of today.