South Australia now has a state fossil emblem - a tangible link to its rich geological past and to its future as a home for eco-tourism and geo-tourism.
The Ediacara fossil, called Spriggina, will join the floral (Sturt Desert Pea), faunal (Hairy-Nosed Wombat), marine (Leafy Sea Dragon) and gemstone (opal) emblems.
Spriggina was chosen by the South Australian public to be our state fossil emblem, with 3,571 strong, enthusiastic and thoughtful responses received during the two-month voting period.
Our new fossil emblem is from the Ediacaran Period and is of major significance to South Australia’s geological history. Spriggina is the oldest known fossil animal with a head and body divisions – perhaps the first evidence of intelligence on Earth, from rocks about 555 million years old.
It provides a unique snapshot of South Australia’s past, helping scientists better understand the evolution of all life on the planet.
The interest in establishing a state fossil emblem stemmed from the recognition of South Australia as home to internationally significant fossils.
With increasing interest in science research across the globe, the announcement of Spriggina as a state emblem has potential tourism and ecotourism implications for South Australia.
Spriggina was named after the late Dr. Reginald Sprigg, a renowned geologist who pioneered exploration for gas, oil and uranium in Australia, and established the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary in the northern Flinders Ranges.
The first Spriggina fossil was found in the Ediacara Hills in 1957 by the late Ben Flounders, an amateur mineralogist from Whyalla who, along with the South Australian Museum’s first Information Officer, teacher and historian, the late Hans Mincham, discovered some important Ediacara fossils in the Flinders Ranges.
The South Australian Museum worked closely with the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources and Department of State Development to develop a community consultation process to determine the state fossil emblem.
Quotes attributable to Arts Minister Jack Snelling
Choosing a state fossil emblem has been a real exercise in democracy.
A short list of four Ediacaran Biota fossils was chosen by the Scientific Advisory Committee. These four fossils were then put to the popular vote using the State Government’s online consultation hub the YourSay website.
People were also able to lodge their vote in person at both the South Australian Museum and at Wilpena Pound in the Flinders Ranges.
Voters indicated their key considerations in choosing Spriggina as our state fossil emblem were that it is unique to South Australia, has geological significance and honours pioneering geologist and conservationist Reg Sprigg, who discovered some of the most ancient animal fossils known, dating back 555 million years, in the Flinders Ranges in 1946.
For the past decade the South Australian Museum’s Senior Research Scientist, Prof. Jim Gehling and his colleague Prof. Mary Droser from the University of California, have uncovered new fossils and discovered evidence that shows how these animals moved, fed and reproduced over 555 million years ago.
The Museum is the steward of virtually all the fossil specimens collected from the Flinders Ranges, making it one of the most important collections in the world.
Sir David Attenborough and South Australia’s fossil heritage:
The international significance of South Australia’s fossil heritage is well known to Sir David Attenborough. On more than one occasion Sir David has visited South Australia, specifically the South Australian Museum and our fossil sites to see for himself the first origins of life.
Fittingly, Sir David has provided the Museum with a statement in relation to Spriggina:
‘Spriggina is one of the first known animals to have lived on Earth. Its head and segmented body suggest that it may well have had a rudimentary brain, making it, perhaps, the earliest evidence of intelligent life in the history of our planet. It was named after the late Reginald Sprigg, the pioneering South Australian geologist who first recognised that it, and other fossils that he found in the Ediacara hills, are among the oldest known large organisms on Earth. So Spriggina’s fame and importance make it a very fitting state fossil emblem for South Australia.’
Sir David Attenborough, February 2017.