Museum Blog

Hank's Adventures: Discoveries at Ampolipoly and the End of the Expedition

Posted 8/16/2015 12:08 AM by Joseph Sertich | Comments

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A bunch of happy paleontologists carrying home the shoulder blade and humerus of a sauropod dinosaur.

Howdy from back home in Denver! After a loooong trip back home we can finally relax and fill you all in on the amazing discoveries and adventures we’ve had over the past few weeks in the Ampolipoly field area back over in Madagascar! Located about 150 km northeast of the coastal city of Morondava, the Ampolipoly field area has been a productive fossil area that has been explored by the Madagascar Paleontology Project team in 2010 and 2012. The area has yielded both sauropod dinosaur bones and giant ammonites in the same sedimentological horizon, making it one of the most interesting fossiliferous depositional environments you can find. Another geologic unit in the same field area contains some of the few known fossil leaves from the Cretaceous of Madagascar, allowing for an even crisper snapshot of what ancient Madagascar was like!

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Our crew of leaf quarry diggers made for an incredibly efficient 4 days of leaf collecting.

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Pedestalling the sauropod scapula and humerus.

With this knowledge and a host of satellite images highlighting the unexplored outcrop of our geologic units, we set out to Ampolipoly with the hopes of finally finding something besides ammonites (as much as we love ammonites, we enjoy finding dinosaurs even more!). And praise the Paleo Gods, we finally found bones! We found a host of giant sauropod limbs, mosasaur vertebrae and jaws, and bizarre shark tooth plates that may have been used to crush ammonite shells. In addition to the amazing vertebrate fossils, we found some pretty incredible ammonites (of course), bivalves, brachiopods, and a ton of fossil leaves!

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A successful jacketing of some sauropod limbs.

Ampolipoly was good to us, and though we only spent four days in the field area, we are incredibly happy with our fossil turnout. We got to eat a modern dinosaur (turkey) for dinner on our second night as sort of a reward for our hard work, and it made the experience all the more incredible.

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Some happy fossil transporters after a long day of extreme weight lifting.

Definitely a fantastic way to cap off a truly epic field season. The almost three months I spent in Madagascar still seem like a blur, and I know it’s going to take me a while to process all the amazing things that happened. From unearthing some of the best-preserved fossils in the world for a month in Berivotra, to seeing lemurs in Ankarafantsika and Andasibe National Parks, to braving tall grass, itchy bean, and basalt cobbles at Manamana Plateau, to exploring the edge of civilization at Analavelona Plateau, to finally finding some amazing vertebrate fossils at Ampolipoly, to getting to know the country of Madagascar and its people, it’s been one heck of a ride.

I hope you’ve had fun reading about all my exploits during my stay in Madagascar, and stay tuned for the next blogger as Denver Paleontology moves on to fieldwork in southern Utah this fall! For now, veloma Madgascar!


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