Image Feather fossil

TLF ID R6885

This is a colour photograph of a feather fossilised in mudstone. This specimen is from the Koonwarra fossil bed in the South Gippsland region of Victoria. This fossil shows detail of the feather structure, including the central shaft and attached barbs.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This feather fossil is from the Koonwarra fossil bed, which formed 118-115 million years ago during the Cretaceous Period. The Koonwarra fossil bed contains fossils as diverse as plants, fish, insects, crustaceans, spiders, worms, bird feathers, a horseshoe crab and a mussel.
  • The Koonwarra fossil bed is composed of fine-grained mudstone and is believed to have formed in the shallow part of a large freshwater lake. The numerous fish fossils found here are well preserved and show no signs of rotting, which suggests the lake probably froze over in winter, trapping and killing many animals due to lack of oxygen. Insect fossils are also well preserved here, supporting the theory that the freezing lake rapidly preserved the plants and animals.
  • Fossils are the remains, moulds or traces of dead plants or animals preserved in rock, mostly sedimentary rock such as sandstones, siltstones, shales and limestones. Fossils are an important source of information about the Earth's past. As well as shedding light on previous climatic and environmental conditions, they provide valuable clues about the evolution of plants and animals, the age and formation of rocks, and the former positions of the continents.
  • The Koonwarra fossils provide invaluable information about the ancient environment. They tell us that the climate at the time was cool, as some of the fossilised insects such as the mayflies and a beetle are similar to modern forms found only in cool alpine and subalpine regions. The fossils are incredibly diverse and include aquatic and terrestrial species, demonstrating the importance of freshwater ecosystems more than 100 million years ago.
  • This feather fossil specimen was one of five small feather impressions found in the Koonwarra fossil bed. These five feathers, along with a few bones found in other parts of Australia, provide the earliest record of birds in Australia.
Year level

3; 4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12

Learning area
  • Science

Other details

  • Contributor
  • Name: Museum Victoria
  • Organization: Museum Victoria
  • Description: Content provider
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Person: Frank Coffa
  • Description: Author
  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: Museum Victoria
  • Organization: Museum Victoria
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
Access profile
  • Colour independence
  • Device independence
  • Hearing independence
Learning Resource Type
  • Image
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and Museum Victoria, 2016, except where indicated under Acknowledgments