Museum Blog

Why Madagascar?

Posted 7/17/2015 12:07 AM by Joseph Sertich | Comments

Written by Hank Woolley.

Why _madagascar1

As we suffer through yet another day of grueling fieldwork in southwestern Madagascar, more than six weeks into another fantastically successful season on the island ‘continent’ more than 600 miles off the southeastern coast of Africa, a question pops into my head. It is the question I have been asked countless times since arriving in Denver. You live in the Rocky Mountain west, surrounded by the best dinosaur fossil record in the world, why would Denver Paleontology travel to the opposite side of the world to dig for dinosaurs?

It is a reasonable question. Fieldwork in Colorado, Wyoming, or Utah would be infinitely simpler logistically, and a two month season would undoubtedly produce spectacular fossils of dinosaurs and other bizarre Mesozoic creatures. The answer is simple. First, the dinosaurs of Madagascar, especially those from the Cretaceous Maevarano Formation, are among the best preserved and significant in the world. The Maevarano fauna of dinosaurs, crocodiles, birds, amphibians, fish, and mammals is arguably the best-known Mesozoic assemblage from the entire southern half of the world. Discoveries over the past 22 years have recovered amazing, and often complete, skeletons that have influenced the way paleontologists think about evolution and biogeography on the southern continents of Gondwana. Second, investigations into broader questions of evolution, biogeography, and climate change require a global perspective. Many of the fossil sites we are actively digging in North America are the same age as the fossil sites we are investigating in Madagascar. Finally, and perhaps the most fun aspect of the work, is the adventure of the unknown. The Cretaceous beds of southwestern Madagascar have never before been targeted intensively for fossil vertebrates like dinosaurs. The risk is high and there is a chance we will find nothing, but the reward is potentially greater. Much like the explorer paleontologists of the American West more than 100 years ago, we have the opportunity to discover new localities that could influence paleontology for years to come.

It’s a long way to travel but well worth the trouble. We will be back to the productive dinosaur beds of southern Utah this fall, but for now it is back out into the field here in Madagascar!

Comments

Subscribe to our RSS feed

Authors

Categories

Social

Archives

Tags

2015 in Space2017 Solar Eclipse40 Eridani system60 Minutes in SpaceAltitudeAndromedaAntaresanthropologyarchaeologyArctic IceArtAsk a ScientistAsteroidAsteroid 2012 DA14Asteroid sample returnAstronomyAtmospherebeerBeetlesBig BangBinary StarBlack HolesBlood MoonBrown DwarfButterfliesCarnegie Institution for ScienceCassiniCatalystCelestial EventsCentaurus ACeresChandra X-Ray TelescopeChang’e 3 moon missionChang’e 4 moon missionCharonChina Space ProgramChinese Space ProgramChipmunksChristmasCitizen ScienceClimateClimate changecollaborationCollectionscollections moveColoradoCometComet 67PComet 67P/Churyumov–GerasimenkoComet Swift-TuttleConferenceConversations in Local Health ResearchCootiesCosmic InflationCuriosityCuriosity RoverCygnusCygnus SpacecraftDark EnergyDark MatterDatabaseDawnDawn missionDawn SpaecraftDDIGDenverDiscovery MissionsdonationDream ChaserDung BeetlesDwarf PlanetEagle NebulaEarthEarth and MoonEarth from SpaceEarth Observation SatellitesEclipse ViewingEducation and Collections Facilityeducation collectionsEinsteinEl NiñoEnceladusentomologyESAEuclid SpacecraftEuropaEuropean Space AgencyEvolutionExoMarsExoMars SpacecraftExoplanetExoplanet Search TechniquesExoplanetsExtinctionextremophilefieldfieldworkFirst Earthrisefolk artfoodGAIA MissionGalaxiesGalaxyGalaxy ClustersGanymedegem carvingGeneticsGRACE SpacecraftGravitational WavesGravity Recovery and Climate ExperimentGreenhouse GasesHabitable ZoneHolidayHolidayshorticultural pestHot JupitersHubbleHubble Space TelescopeHuman SpaceflightHydrainsect collectioninsectsInsightInternational Space StationISSISS SightingsJason-2 (Spacecraft)JPLJWSTKeplerKepler Missionknow healthKonovalenkoKuiper Belt ObjectLaser CommunicationsLawrence Livermore National LaboratoryLepidoperaLepidopteraLibraryLiceLight PollutionLinear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array (LEISA)literatureLockheed Martin DenverLROLunar EclipseLunar Reconnaissance OrbiterMadagascarMarathon ValleyMars 2020Mars ExplorationMars OrbiterMars Reconnaissance OrbiterMars RoverMars RoversMars Science LabMars Science LaboratoryMars spacecraftMars WaterMAVENMemoryMesa VerdeMeteor ShowersMeteorsMilky WayMongoliaMoon Rise/SetMothsMount SharpMROMSLMurray ButtesNASANASA-JPLNASA-TVNeptuneNeuroscienceNeutron StarNew HorizonsNew Horizons spacecraftNight SkynomenclatureNSFNutritionOcean CurrentsOcean Surface Topography Mission (OSTM)Opportunity RoverOrbital SciencesOriginsOrionOrion spacecraftOSIRIS-RExPaleo DietpaleontologyparasitesPerseidsPersied Meteor ShowerPhilaePhobosPhotographyPlankPlutopoisonPolar bearsProgresspublishingPulsarQuasarRADRadio AstronomyRegolith ExplorerRelativityResource IdentificationRosettaRussiasamplesSaturnSaturn MoonsSaturn Ringsschoolscience on tapScientific visitorSecurityShrewsSierra NevadaSky calendarSky watchSmellSnowmassSolar SystemSoyuzSpace CommunicationsSpace ProbesSpace Stories of 2015Space TelescopesSpaceXspecimensSpectral InterpretationspidersSpitzer Space TelescopeStar ClusterStar TrekstarsStickney craterSunSuomi National Polar-orbiting PartnershipSuper EarthSuper MoonSupernovaTasteTeen Science Scholarsthe MoonTongueTravelturtleUniverseUtopia PlanitiaVenusVery Large ArrayVestaVirgin GalacticVLAvolunteeringVulcanWebb Space TelescopeWeddingwormXMM-NewtonX-ray Multi-Mirror Missionzoology
^ Back to Top
comments powered by Disqus