Crocodiles and dinosaurs in Australia

Are crocodiles dinosaurs?

Crocodiles are in the news again, for all the wrong reasons.

They are reptiles like lizards, turtles and snakes and they have a very ancient lineage.

Crocodiles belong to the clade Archosaur. A clade is a group of organisms that have a common ancestor. Interestingly, Archosaurs also include dinosaurs and pterosaurs.

The earliest fossil crocodile known, lived more than 300 million years ago and the crocodilians developed alongside the dinosaurs.

Like birds, which are now considered dinosaur descendants, crocodilians survived the K-T extinction, 66 million years ago.

Why aren’t crocodiles considered dinosaurs also?

There are a number of reasons particularly surrounding the Archosaur “family tree” and when crocodiles branched off. For you and I, the answer is fairly simple.

A key aspect of dinosaur morphology, or shape, if you like, is that their hind legs are positioned directly under their body. This is true for birds, for instance, but not for crocodiles.

For this reason, also, pterosaurs, flying reptiles from the time of dinosaurs and prehistoric marine reptiles, such as ichthyosaurs, pliosaurs and plesiosaurs are not dinosaurs.

In recent years, crocodiles have appeared in our news as the culprits in attacks on humans. This shouldn’t surprise us and, in fact, crocodiles are fairly easy to avoid.

Those who’ve been attacked took unnecessary risks either through bravado or ignorance. In Australia, the warnings about estuarine crocodiles are clear and simple.

Are crocodiles dinosaurs?

On a bank of the Annan River in Far North Queensland is Blackie, the five-metre male crocodile that is said to rule the area. Photo: Jocelyn Watts



Where are crocodiles found in Australia?

You can expect crocodiles in any watercourse or basin from Fraser Island, across the northern coastline, to Shark Bay in WA.

Don’t go in or on the water, even in small boats or skis and kayaks. Don’t develop habits such as fishing, cleaning fish or dumping fish or meat scraps in the same place regularly. Crocodiles are smart and they learn.

Crocodiles are quite common in Australian tropical waters and the largest grow to at least 5 metres. You are not going to survive a meeting with an animal that size.

How big are crocodiles?

The largest measured crocodile was Lolong, which was captured and measured at 6.17 metres. Lolong was captured in the Philippines. He was suspected of the deaths of several people in his vicinity.

There have been claims of bigger crocodiles, including Krys. He was shot in 1958 near Normanton in Far North Queensland and was claimed to be 8.64 metres long. The accuracy of this measurement is contested though.

There is a skull in the Paris Museum that is 76cm long. Lolong’s skull was only 70cm.

Returning to prehistoric crocodilians, the largest known was Sarcosuchus imperator which may have grown to 12 metres.

Feature photo: Crocodile in the Northern Territory of Australia, by Jocelyn Watts.

Queensland’s Macadamia Nut

Is it the Queensland, Macadamia or Bauple nut?

WHEN I was a boy, we’d occasionally get a treat which we knew as a Queensland nut. I was amazed to learn a few years later they came from Hawaii.

That’s only part of the story though and, as with many stories, it involves bias and inaccuracies.

The nut was indeed a native product of Queensland but could also be found in parts of northern NSW.

I wonder if the “Queensland nut” label was just a case of state rivalry and one-upmanship.

Other names used for the nut include Macadamia, Maroochi and Gympie.

More recently, I learned the nut was known, perhaps, as the Bopple (or Baupal or Bauple) to the indigenous people of the Wide Bay hinterland where it was first recorded by Europeans; to wit, Allan Cunningham.

I say perhaps, because, as with any translation or appropriation from the native tongue to another language, there are many pitfalls.

Indeed, at the turn of the 20th Century, in the closest European settlement to the locale of Cunningham’s “discovery”, all three spellings were used in the town; the Post Office was called Baupal PO, the school and the mountain were Bopple and the sugar mill was Bauple.

This wasn’t settled until 1913, though the decision to go with Bauple, seems rather arbitrary.

There was, for a time, a coastal trading vessel, the SS Bopple, registered in Maryborough, that plied the waters between Wide Bay and Grafton in NSW.

Four native species of “our” nut

I have also discovered, latterly, that there are four native species of the nut.

Interestingly, one species, M. jansenii is quite poisonous, releasing a cyanide compound that can kill.

The Hawaiian connection arose from the fact that the trees were first imported to Hawaii to act as windbreaks for sugar cane and were later successfully commercially grown there.

Currently, South Africa holds the distinction for the largest commercial production of “our” nut.

The coastal trading vessel, the SS Bopple

Bopple Maryborough, from the State Library of Qld and John Oxley Library.

Understanding Cemetery Symbols and Emblems

What do the symbols and emblems on gravestones mean?

HAVE you ever wondered about the symbols and emblems on headstones and monuments at the cemetery? If you grew up in a religious family, there was no doubt some symbols appeared frequently.

For me, it was the Celtic Cross, INRI, AMDG and the ChiRho. This is an interesting combination including Celtic, Latin and Ancient Greek. At the cemetery, you will find these and many more.

Cemetery Symbols & Emblems

The Maryborough Cemetery or at least the monumental part of it is quite old by Queensland standards. It was established in 1873, though there had been earlier cemeteries.

The first was at the site of the Old Maryborough Township near the intersection of Alice and Aldridge streets and later, at the site of the Elizabeth Park Rose Gardens. There were also various burials scattered throughout the district. 

If you wander through the monumental cemetery on Walker St, you will be in awe of the size, variety and beauty of the various headstones and monuments erected to honour the deceased.

It should be noted that the cemetery is divided into portions assigned to various faiths.

If you enter from Walker St, through the main gate you will note the abundance of Celtic Crosses on the left of the avenue. This is one of the Catholic portions of the cemetery.

To your right is an Anglican section. Crosses predominate throughout the cemetery, as one would expect, historically.  There are two quaintly named “Non-Christian” portions which are quite small.

Angels often indicate the deceased was a child

Amongst the larger and more spectacular monuments, several motifs stand out apart from the crosses.

Angels, of course, are common and of varying styles. Look out for the Archangels Michael, with a sword and Gabriel, with a horn or trumpet. Angels may be flying, symbolizing the departure of the soul, or crying in grief.

Cherubs are often used to indicate the deceased was a child.

At the Maryborough Cemetery in 2005, Andy Souvlis had a children’s memorial, with a single one-tonne marble angel as the centrepiece, built at the Maryborough Cemetery where he was buried next to his beloved wife Myra in 2010.

There are numerous cemetery monuments that feature an obelisk or stele. This is a square spire tapering towards the top with a distinctive pyramid shape at the point. They are quite ancient symbols of power and achievement.

Occasionally, the monument will be topped by a column which appears broken off. This is deliberate. The broken column, again, symbolizes a life cut short and is usually an indication that the deceased died quite young.

Many monuments topped by urns

As you continue to ramble amongst the graves, note the number of monuments topped by urns.

Maryborough Cemetery has quite a few of them. It is argued that the urn symbolizes immortality, but it is probable that the urn motif is a remembrance of an earlier time when cremation was more common than burial.

The word urn comes from the Latin “uro” which means “to burn”. The purpose of the urn was to hold the ashes, and which echo the Biblical reference in Genesis, to the dust we humans intrinsically are.

Many of the urns are draped with a cloth. This is the shroud, another ancient motif associated with death. From earliest times and across many faiths the body was wrapped in a cloth before interment.

Crypts and raised tombs

The cemetery in Maryborough also contains at least one crypt and several raised tombs.

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