Gastropods are a diverse array of animals that includes the snails, slugs, abalone, limpets and cowries. They are widely recognised for the single, usually spirally coiled, shells found in most species, such as the one displayed here. This species belongs to an extinct group of gastropods that lived during the Cenozoic Era between 65 million and 2 million years ago.
Gastropods use their muscular foot to crawl, attach or burrow, and their head contains the sense organs, including the eyes and tentacles. Their soft body parts, the head and muscular foot, may be withdrawn into the hard shell for protection. Gastropods are found in marine, freshwater and terrestrial environments, and have highly variable feeding habits; some are predators, others scavengers, plankton feeders or grazers.
Shell fossils, such as the one seen here, are often examples of the 'unaltered remains' type of fossil. This type of fossilisation is seen when there is little or no change in the structure or composition of the hard parts of the body. Fossils from a more recent period in the Earth's history, such as this one, are more likely than the more ancient fossils to be found in an unaltered state.
Fossils are the remains, moulds or traces of dead plants or animals preserved in rock, generally sedimentary rock such as sandstones, siltstones, shales and limestones. Fossils provide invaluable information about the Earth's past, including the evolution of plants and animals, the age and formation of rocks, and the former positions of the continents.
This gastropod fossil is from the private collection of F A Cudmore (1892-1956), now held in Museum Victoria. F A Cudmore collected many fossils of various marine animals including mussels, clams, corals, sea urchins and crustaceans. These fossils came from the Cenozoic Era, between 65 million and 2 million years ago, which is relatively recent in the Earth's history. Fossils of this period are generally better preserved than older fossils as they have had less time to become altered by mineral replacement and geological forces within the Earth's crust.