Vertebrate Paleontology Field Trip

|Vertebrate Paleontology Field Trip

The Spring 2014 Field School Vertebrate Paleontology module began this week with Prof. Mikael Fortelius who travelled to Turkana from Finland. Students are being introduced to the diversity and evolution of vertebrates in the Turkana Basin as well as the basic methods involved in searching for, documenting and collecting fossils in the field.

This morning we travelled to some exposures near the Napedet Hills to look for fossils accompanied by Dr Meave Leakey.

The first lesson involved observing the ground closely while moving slowly across it.

 

Spring 2014 Students begin the hunt for fossils

Spring 2014 Students begin the hunt for fossils

Working in pairs, it wasn’t long before the students started to make some finds.

Robyn and Sarah re-discover part of a large animals' leg bone

Robyn and Sarah re-discover part of a large animals’ leg bone

 

Abdi and Angela document their find of a tooth

Abdi and Angela document their find of a tooth

 

Students learned that this site was filled with fossils that were over 3 million years old. This area would have been much wetter and greener at that time, and from the large number of crocodile teeth, remains of turtle shells and hippos, this indicates that this was an ancient lake or river delta teeming with life.

Erica and Lauren discover part of an ancient turtle

Erica and Lauren discover part of an creature!

 

A closer view of the turtle's shell

A closer view of the fossil!

Some of the fossils were interesting specimens and collected for further analysis at the lab. Students learned how important it was to measure, document and describe the context of the fossil so as to enable better interpretation and analysis later on.

 

Dr Meave Leakey explains a find to Kate and Kailie

Dr Meave Leakey explains a find to Kate and Kailie

 

Rob and Janina discuss their strategy for finding fossils

Rob and Janina discuss their strategy for finding fossils

 

Dr Meave Leakey explains a find to Tiffany and Carolina

Dr Meave Leakey explains a find to Tiffany and Carolina

 

The final part of the field trip involved carefully documenting a site where a few fossils were collected. One of the fossils collected was part of an an ancient animal called Sivatherium, which was a kind of giraffe, similar to the present day okapi, but larger and more heavily built. How amazing to think that these incredible beasts were wandering around Turkana a few million years ago!

Professor Fortelius explains about the ancient Sivatherium

Professor Fortelius explains about the ancient Sivatherium

 

Sarah paces out to describe the geology and photograph the site

Sarah paces out to describe the geology and photograph the site

 

Robyn carefully wraps the Sivatherium's teeth

Robyn carefully wraps the Sivatherium’s teeth

Here is reconstruction of this ancient animal from a Warsaw museum (image from Wikimedia Commons courtesy of Muzeum Ewolucji PAN, Warszaw)

The strange and wonderful beast, the Sivatherium

The strange and wonderful beast, the Sivatherium

Check back soon for more adventure and discovery from the TBI Spring 2014 Field School!

By | 2017-01-04T18:04:55+00:00 February 19th, 2014|Field Schools|Comments Off on Vertebrate Paleontology Field Trip

About the Author:

Hello! I'm Dino Martins, an entomologist interested in how insects keep the planet running, the biology of vectors and more broadly in the evolution of life and our role in a sustainable world. I teach for the Turkana Basin Field School and serve as the Academic Field Director and am a Research Assistant Professor at Stony Brook University.