January 08, 2007

He's ba-ack...(with STUFF!)


Dr. Christian Sidor, vertebrate paleontology curator, has returned from his expedition to Niger with a bag of goodies for the Burke’s paleontology collection. He unveiled his research team’s fossil finds on Monday to a bevy of reporters and photographers, so look for the news in your local Seattle papers.

All of the fossils collected by Christian’s team are from the Late Permian period, approximately 260 million years old (that’s 40 million years older than the first dinosaurs!), representing an exciting array including:

•The nearly complete backbone of a new, large, plant-eating reptile called a pareiasaur.
•The skeleton of a small, new reptile called a captorhinid.
•The lower jaw of the large captorhinid reptile Moradisaurus (a fossil named by French paleontologists in 1967).
•The first plant fossils from the Upper Permian of Niger.
•A 60-foot fossil tree log, the first of this size from the Permian of West Africa.
•The first fossil footprints and trackways of land-living animals from the Permian of West Africa.

These fossils represent life on Earth during a time when all the continents were aligned as one supercontinent, Pangea. Yet what the team found are animals that are unique, despite this shared geography. If it’s not geography that isolated these animals, then what was it that allowed them to evolve differently from other reptiles found across Pangea? Christian and his team, which includes UW undergraduate, Tara Smiley, are investigating the role of climate in this phenomenon.

Below: Just some of the fossils from Niger awaiting treatment in the fossil prep lab

4 comments:

karkemish said...

will have a reconstructed skull of moradiasaurus they can show

Anonymous said...

Dear Sir, I believe that you have governmental permission from Niger to bring all this STUFF from "Africa’s most under developed country," as your Museum refer to the country on the web page. But I would like to ask if this is ethically correct, because you are unveiling the heritage of a country and take it to your own without leaving any kind of benefit to the country or the future generations. This was done during the XIX century and we all regret that (or at least some of us), but this is the XXI century and I do believe we should work some solution for this kind of behavior, specially coming from a respectful scientist and a respectful institution as yours.

Burke Museum said...

Please note - this is Christian Sidor's response:
"Anonymous has raised some important issues regarding our research in Niger that are worth clarifying. Most importantly, all of the fossils we collected will be returned to the Musée National du Niger (MNN) in Niamey at the end of the project. Unfortunately, because of the political conditions in northern Niger, it hasn't been safe enough to return to do our second season of fieldwork, so we are still waiting to restart our work. Second, not only will all the original fossil material be returned, but part of our NSF grant is to develop new displays for the MNN. Moreover, we will be partnering with the Peace Corps in Niamey to train museum interpreters to explain the significance of Niger's fossil heritage to museum visitors.

Niger consistently ranks near the bottom of the UN Development Program list, and is currently #186 out of 187 worldwide (http://hdr.undp.org/en/statistics/), so I would hope the comment is taken as factual, not derogatory. I have good friends in Niger and look forward to working in the Sahara again soon."

Anonymous said...

Dear Sir, thank you for answering to my doubts. Hope you can finalize your work and accomplish your objectives for the development of Niger heritage.
Kind regards

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