Can 50 tons of dinosaur fossils help hatch paleontology in Niger? – cnn hollywood

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A trove of dinosaur bones, soon to be shipped from Niger to the University of Chicago for research, represent paleontology’s latest win.

The fossils include ancient mammals, flying reptiles, a 40-foot crocodile, and “a dozen large dinosaurs that are new, including huge 60-footers,” says American paleontologist Paul Sereno.

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Landlocked Niger is home to stunning dinosaur fossils. Scientists aim not only to find them but also to build homegrown research expertise.

But Chicago won’t be the bones’ final resting place. They are earmarked to be eventually returned to Niger, which contains some of the richest paleontological finds in Africa but boasts no paleontologists of its own. 

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Niger Heritage is a project drawn up by Dr. Sereno, archaeologist Boubé Adamou, and other researchers and government officials. It envisions museums with the capacity to not just display the fossils but also, for the first time, conduct homegrown research. 

“Each time, we see that we find new dinosaurs, new fossils that permit us to say that the soil is rich,” says Mr. Adamou, an archaeologist at the Institute for Research in Human Sciences who, as one of Niger’s foremost experts on excavations, helped lead a recent expedition. “Niger has an unheard-of heritage.”

Niger’s first paleontologists, it is hoped, might be in undergraduate courses right now. 

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Goats, cows, and pedestrians wander by the two unassuming shipping containers along a street in Niger’s riverside capital without a second thought. But inside lie nearly 50 tons of dinosaur bones wrapped in plaster – potentially some of the most significant paleontological finds this landlocked West African country, and even the continent, has ever known.

There are fossils from perhaps as many as 100 different species, some of them from ancient animals never seen before. 

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“Small animals, mammals, flying reptiles, turtles” as well as a 40-foot crocodile and “a dozen large dinosaurs that are new, including huge 60-footers,” says American paleontologist Paul Sereno.

Why We Wrote This

A story focused on

Landlocked Niger is home to stunning dinosaur fossils. Scientists aim not only to find them but also to build homegrown research expertise.

HTML tutorial

Getting them to the capital was years in the making – and their journey isn’t over. The initial discoveries were made in 2018 and 2019, in the vast expanse of the Sahara Desert. It would take time and funding for a proper dig, though, so the paleontologists covered them up and buried them, hoping the winds wouldn’t expose them to curious nomads or dangerous smugglers. 

Then COVID-19 hit, shutting everything down until finally, last fall, Professor Sereno could return to unearth the fossils again.  

“Niger is going to tell Africa’s story during the dinosaur era,” he says. Instead of the fossilized snapshots found in many other places, these discoveries present a continuum of “the Jurassic and Cretaceous history of Africa.”

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