Field moment: Energy

Burning on thin air at high altitude.


I am very, very impressed

25 September 2008 IVPP, Beijing.

I saw the first complete skeleton of the giant hyena Dinocrocuta gigantea this morning.

The head-body length of this individual is over 6 feet long (1.9 meters), the skull itself is 17 inches long (43 centimeters).

This skeleton is just one of the new discoveries coming out of Hezheng, the little town in southern Gansu Province that has produced the most spectacular late Miocene hyaenid specimens in China over the past 15 years.

The skeleton is to be studied by IVPP scientists and photos could be released after consultation.

This is a lion-sized hyena in an extinct fauna that did not contain large is very likely that the lion's present day reign in Africa was not supreme throughout the Old World.

I am awestruck.

Field moment: behind the lens

Catching a glimpse of passing scenery.


The month in review



Kunlun Mountain






Homeward Bound

22 September 2008. Xining, Qinghai Province.

We spent half a day yesterday doing some last minute fossil prospecting near Olongbuluk Mountain. After collecting a partial turtle shell, our team discovered two more jaw fragments of different hyena species! Photos to come.

Half of our team took an overnight train from Delingha to Xining. Our field season officially ended on the 21st, as our original plan to continue into western Tibet will not materialize. The political climate there is still unsettled, and our research schedule has adapted accordingly.

By the end of this week, our vehicles will have arrived back in Beijing, with our fossils from this field season. I will be working on the carnivore fossils, and in the process sorting through all of the specimens collected this year to gain a better understanding of the ecological community that lived in the Chaidamu Basin more than 5 million years ago.

The four of us who took the train to Xining split again, two heading to Lanzhou to take care of some final logistics, and two of us flying directly back to Beijing. There is much work to be done in order to get a good grip on what we have accomplished in the past month.

From the Xining Caojiabao Airport,