Time of the Dinosaurs and Crocodiles
The period between about 96 and 56 million years ago (Ma) is a critical one in prehistory. During this time Africa became isolated from other continents and embarked on its own evolutionary path. Crucially, this interval also encapsulates the Cretaceous-Tertiary (KT) boundary at 65 Ma, when a massive meteorite struck the earth leading to the fifth extinction that wiped out non-avian dinosaurs and paved the way for the Age of Mammals. Yet, at present, there are no records of mammals, and only a few fragmentary remains of dinosaurs, from this pivotal time in African prehistory. Exploration in the Labur Hills to the west of the lake, in the 1980s and subsequently in 2004, led to the discovery of crocodilian and turtle fossils and a good collection of dinosaur fossils. This is thought to be the youngest terrestrial vertebrate fauna from close to the KT boundary from anywhere in Africa, and these sediments offer great promise for further research and exploration.
The Island Africa Project is a consortium of American and African paleontologists and geologists working together to understand significant evolutionary events of this period. During the summer of 2008, TBI scientists Erik Seiffert and Joe Sertich (at that time both from Stony Brook University) joined scientists from the National Museums of Kenya for a return trip to the Labur Hills to search for more complete fossils and to explore for new fossil localities. The Island Africa team hope to resolve outstanding research questions about the pattern and timing of fragmentation of Gondwana (the southern supercontinent), and to learn more about non-avian dinosaur evolution and mammalian evolution.