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.
Working in pairs, it wasn’t long before the students started to make some finds.
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.
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.
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!
Here is reconstruction of this ancient animal from a Warsaw museum (image from Wikimedia Commons courtesy of Muzeum Ewolucji PAN, Warszaw)
Check back soon for more adventure and discovery from the TBI Spring 2014 Field School!