Written by Hank Woolley.
(Most of) The Team in Berivotra
Salàma from the field! We are out here at the Madagascar Paleontology Project (MPP) research facility in the village of Berivotra (pronounced Bay-REEFT) in the northwest corner of Madagascar, and after a week of braving the extreme heat, our team has already uncovered some incredible fossils. The MPP team has unearthed ancient remains of titanosaurians (giant long-necked dinosaurs with an awesome family name), bizarre crocodiles such as Simosuchus (which looked more like a scaly, plant eating bulldog than what we think normal crocs look like), huge river turtles, and scattered remains of carnivorous dinosaurs such as Mahajangasaurus and Masiakasaurus. Additionally, our team of geologists (Dr. Ray Rogers and Dr. Colin Robins) have been studying some of the world’s best-preserved paleosols (literally ancient soils) here in Berivotra as they try to better understand the depositional setting of these dinosaur ecosystems.
Ray Rogers (top) fearlessly leading us through the classic localities in the Berivotra field area.
In spite of the overwhelming heat, Berivotra is one of the most amazing settings on the planet for fossil hunting. The landscape is dominated by grassy hills speckled with palm trees, and overall is more reminiscent of beach dunes than anything else. This is unusual for paleontologists, who are used to fossil hunting in the lunar landscapes seen in southeastern Utah, western North Dakota, and northwest New Mexico. But despite this unusual setting for fossils, it is impossible to traverse a small hillside without tripping over a dinosaur bone. This is ideal fossil hunting for clumsy people (yours truly).
Mentally preparing myself to carry a 60-pound sauropod femur head (next to my right foot) in my backpack
For the next week and a half, the team will be heading to separate field areas in the Mahajanga Basin, including Lac Kinkony and Befandrama so be sure to stay tuned for more fossils, beautiful photos, and awesome stories!
Hard at work in a new quarry.
On our way back to camp after a long day quarrying.