Large block of Early Permian Cundlego Formation siltstone

Collection Highlights | Updated 5 months ago

A formation contained many exposed fossils
Cundlego Formation siltstone
Image copyright of WA Museum

The 275 million-year-old Cundlego Formation was deposited within a flooded interior rift basin, far from the open ocean. The two supercontinents Laurasia in the north and Gondwana in the south were merged into a single, enormous continent called Pangea. A relatively rich marine fauna flourished in the cool but warming waters.

Periodic storm events buried the more immobile, bottom-dwelling species in a blanket of sand and silt. Exposures of the Cundlego Formation at Gascoyne Junction have produced rock surfaces littered with assembles of sea stars, brittle stars and filter feeding crinoids (sea lilies) that all perished during storms. A large slab of the Cundlego Formation, donated to the Western Australian Museum, shows numerous articulated crinoids and an undescribed species of sea star.

The Cundlego crinoids are highly desired and valuable fossils on the commercial fossil market. Common species well represented in museum collections, such as Jimbacrinus bostocki, are legally exported to fossil collectors around the world. Illegal export and import of protected fossils is otherwise a major issue in the field of palaeontology as individuals and companies involved in commercial fossil trade may completely deplete sites of scientifically valuable specimens. At a later stage, museums may be offered high quality specimens for purchase but restricted funding do typically not allow public institutions to successfully compete with private individuals.

Fossil Collection