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Megafauna Central

Megafauna Central showcases the unique megafauna that roamed Central Australia 8 million years ago.


Meet the world's largest bird and a fearsome crocodile from the Miocene epoch. Discover fascinating fossils and catch a glimpse of palaeontologists at work in the lab.


Megafauna Central 

21 Todd Street Mall
Alice Springs 

Open Wednesday – Monday

Open Mon, Wed – Fri: 10am – 4pm
Open Sat – Sun: 10am – 2pm


​The Discovery Centre is open and offers children's activities​.

+61 8951 1113
Closed Tuesdays and Good Friday and over the Christmas and New Year period.

Alcoota Scientific Reserve

Megafauna Central showcases the unique megafauna of Central Australia of the Miocene epoch from the Alcoota Scientific Reserve.


Alcoota Scientific Reserve is a fossil deposit located north east of Alice Springs, NT. Here, the remains of thousands of individual animals, known as megafauna, occur in a massive jumble of bone amidst the remains of what some scientists think may have been an ancient waterhole. The Alcoota fossil beds have produced some of the best, most diverse, and complete examples of some of the larger extinct Australian animals from the Late Miocene (~6-8 million years ago), such as marsupial “rhinos” (diprotodontids), marsupial “tapirs” (palorchestids), giant flightless birds (dromornithids), crocodylians and marsupial “wolves” (thylacines). This era was known as “the age of mammals”, and Alcoota is the most extensive fossil deposit of its age anywhere in Australia.


Fossilised bones at Alcoota are difficult to excavate as they occur in fine but tightly packed sediment and are highly fractured due to the expansion and contraction of the clay-rich sediment over millions of years. The density of fossils also mean that each bone has to be carefully removed from other bones around, above and below it, while minimising any damage. Every bone is chemically consolidated while still in the ground before it can be moved at all, before being packed for transport for final preparation in our lab at Megafauuna Central, Alice Springs. It is a very difficult and time-consuming process, and quite an art!




Registrations are OPEN for volunteer places on the Alcoota Scientific Reserve Megafauna Fossil Dig, July 2024.

When: Monday 16 to Monday 22 July 2024, starting and finishing in Alice Springs, NT.


Cost: $2,200 per person (incl. GST and booking fee).


Price includes all activities and meals on site. Participants will need to provide their own camping gear.


Cost includes return transport from Alice Springs to Alcoota, but excludes transport to and from Alice Springs.


Eligibility: Anyone over 18 years. No experience necessary. There are only 6 places available.


Location: Alcoota Scientific Reserve, approximately 100kms north-east of Alice Springs, Central Australia.

Alcoota Field Expedition 2024 Logo.png

Experience Central Australia like never before!

MAGNT palaeontologists have been visiting the Alcoota megafauna fossil site for over 30 years, uncovering mysteries of megafauna that tell the story of the drying out of our continent. In 2024 we will open the site to a new model of volunteer program.

Our team of palaeontologists and partners from across Australia will host you for a six day experience on the Alcoota Scientific Reserve. You will contribute to palaeontological exploration and learn how fossil digs run while being part of a team whose discoveries form a world-class scientific and cultural resource.

You will:

  • Learn about the geological history and megafauna at the Alcoota Scientific Reserve,

  • Learn to distinguish fossilised bones from geological specimens,

  • Search for fossils in siftings from various different pits,

  • Learn how to label, describe and document megafauna fossils excavated from Alcoota pits,

  • Mend, reassemble or prepare fossils,

  • Experience fireside conversation with scientists and locals,

  • Listen to talks on the Alcoota region,

  • Participate in insect collections for the MAGNT entomology collection,

  • Help document the extant fauna of the Alcoota Scientific Reserve,

  • Visit the Engawala Art Centre in the community whose people have lived on the land for thousands of years,

Contribute to science, seize opportunities for experiences not available outside this fossil dig, make lasting friendships and enjoy the extraordinary sights, sounds and beauty of the Central Australian outback.


Your hosts:


Dig participants will be guided by our highly experienced team of experts from MAGNT and Flinders University:

  • Dr Adam Yates, MAGNT Senior Curator of Earth Sciences

  • Dr Sam Arman, MAGNT Collection Technical Officer, Earth Sciences

  • Dr Kirsti Abbott, MAGNT Head of Science


To find out more, please email the Head of Science at MAGNT, Dr Kirsti Abbott on or call on 0466 726 525.



8 million year old fossils

The fossils are spread over a 200 metre stretch of ground and include the remains of as many as 3000 individual animals that all came to be buried in the same place. Included among these animals was the world’s largest bird, a fearsome crocodile that would be more than a match for the biggest modern salty, marsupial ‘lions’, marsupial ‘wolves’ and herds of giant browsing wombat relatives.


What brought all these creatures to one spot and killed them? What can we learn from them about the evolution of Australia’s unique fauna? Come to Megafauna Central to uncover the mystery.



Australia's oldest Megafauna?

Enhancing the Megafauna story is a new display featuring fossils of the oldest Australian ‘megafauna’ from 450 million years ago. These fossils originated from central Australia when life was still almost entirely confined to the seas.   On display are some of the very first animals to evolve to giant size long before animals trod the land and eventually evolve into the megafauna that is the focus of Megafauna Central. The display gives a fascinating insight into how these megafauna evolved, some even outgrowing the average human!



Tim's Journey Back in Time

Join Tim, a young boy from Engawala on a time-travelling journey, as he encounters Australian Megafauna. 

‘Tim’s Journey Back in Time’ is a story of adventure and megafauna inspired by the Alcoota fossil dig site which lies a few kilometres from the Engawala Community.


Initially produced into an animated film by MAGNT in 2021 in collaboration with the Engawala Women’s Art Group and Batchelor Institute and narrated in Eastern Anmatyerre, ‘Tim’s Journey Back in Time’ is a delightfully fun journey illustrated through original artwork.

Purchase the book via the Online Shop.

Dr Adam Yates, Megafauna Central. Photo: Shaana McNaught

Alcoota Fossil Reserve. Photo: Emma Murray

Dromornis, Megafauna Central. Photo: Merinda Campbell

Tim's Journey Back in Time produced by Engawala Women's Art Group and the Batchelor Institute.

Tim's Journey, Megafauna Central. Photo: Mark Sherwood

Slide images by Kirsti Abbott, Mark Sherwood, Diana Fusco and Louise Kean 

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