Identifying our State Fossil Emblem
In mid 2016, a scientific group met with paleontological representatives from each of the three universities (including Emeritus Professor Rod Wells), the two major state agencies (DSD, DEWNR) and the Museum. This group reviewed the Ediacaran biota and agreed on a number of criteria that would guide selection of a shortlist of potential state fossil emblems to present to the community.
The final four species shortlisted were Spriggina floundersi; Dickinsonia costata; Tribrachidium heraldicum; and Parvancorina. The shortlist had aesthetic appeal, represented a significant evolutionary development, and had a strong story to tell. Each of these species were quite different morphologically, subsequently it presented the community with a real option through an engaging process.
Public votes for the State Fossil Emblem were sourced from physical voting stations at the South Australian Museum and Ikara (Wilpena Pound), as well as through the State Government’s ‘YourSAy’ website.
Strong, enthusiastic and thoughtful responses were received during the two-month voting period with a total of 3,571 votes received.
An equal spread of male and female respondents, aged from under 9 to 80+ and residing in both metro and rural locations, provided insightful reasons for selecting their favourite short-listed fossil.
When voting respondents were given the opportunity to provide the rationale for their vote. Voters primarily identified a strong preference for a specimen that is unique to South Australia. The Flinders Ranges provide the best exposed, most accessible and geologically complete context for Ediacara fossils anywhere on Earth. Moreover, their aesthetic appeal and evolutionary significance were also strong reasons for their voting preference.
With 49% of the overall vote, Spriggina-floundersi was a resounding favourite of respondents, subsequently Spriggina-floundersi has been adopted as South Australia’s newest State Emblem, our State Fossil Emblem.
Found in the iconic sandstone rock formation that holds key landmarks in Adnyamathanha traditional stories of origin in the Flinders Ranges, Spriggina-floundersi was the first know Ediacaran animal with an identifiable head and segmented body, and a possible precursor to all arthropods: animals with jointed appendages, segmented bodies and external skeletons.
Arguably the head of Spriggina is the earliest evidence of a brain and concentration of sensory organs. It is unique to South Australia.
Spriggina is named in honour of the late Dr Reg. Sprigg, South Australia’s famous entrepreneurial geologist who pioneered uranium mining, and the search for oil and gas throughout that State. Sprigg also established Australia’s first private sanctuary to conserve the unique natural heritage of the Arkaroola region.
Sir David Attenborough & 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 us with a statement in relation to Spriggina-floundersi:
‘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.