Out of the desert (for now)

3 September 2008, Delingha, Qinghai Province

We just came out of a 5-day stay at the foot of the Olongbuluk Mountain. Pictures speak better than words, so without much delay:

[our vehicles driving into the field area]

[setting up camp]

[fossil prospecting]

[crew heading out in the brisk morning]

[Olongbuluk area]

The Olongbuluk area we were working in is of late middle Miocene to late Miocene in age; the fossil-producing strata are fluvial sandstone deposits ranging from half a meter to two meters in depth. The entire area forms a syncline structure with most fossiliferous deposits north of the structural axis. The mammal and fish fossils are coming out of moderately sorted sandstone or iron-rich resistant sandstone of a deep purple color.

[on the way out of the field area, crew looking tired]

Tomorrow we will begin sampling sediment to screen wash for microfossils (rodents); after an evening's rest, we will switch gears and shovel dirt for a day. We hope to collect close to one metric ton's worth of dirt to screen wash with water.

[acting silly in front of Olympic mascots]

Speaking of hyenas, Andie, I am not sure whether all hyaenids lack clavicles (I am guilty of being a head hunter...I have not seen many fossil hyena skeletons during my study yet, but given the likelihood of most hyaenids being capable hunters, I would expect them to have very reduced clavicles or total absence in order to increase range of forelimb motion during running). I will get back to this question with a better answer.

One of our crew members, Dr. Qiang Li, discovered a partial lower hyaenid jaw on 31 August; the jaw has a canine and a lower third molar preserved. We are not sure of the identity of this specimen, but given its large size it could be Percrocuta, one of the rarer hyenas of the Old World. The true identity will be revealed once I compare hyaenid specimens in Beijing.



David K. said...

I'm sure it's hard work, but that's a pretty interesting environment and it looks like everyone is having a good time. Have you spotted any interesting insects or wildlife up there? (I know, I know, living things are boring, just curious... :P )

Spencer said... strangely familiar. :-/