Earth Sciences in Angola

A graduate student and a postdoctoral researcher in SMU’s Roy M. Huffington Department of Earth Sciences, along with Professor Louis L. Jacobs, are conducting research in Angola in southern Africa during summer 2012. They are members of an international scientific program called the PaleoAngola Project, which seeks to discover and study Angola’s vertebrate paleontology and learn about the environment in which prehistoric creatures lived. Readers also can follow their work at

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No mammals, but a bird fossil

An update from Scott and Ricardo:

We returned to Lândana again today. We are carefully working our way south toward Malembo Point. In order to determine how these two localities are related to each other, it’s imperative that we link them stratigraphically by tracing the rock layers from one to the other.

Dr. Jacobs found the upper arm bone of a very large crocodile, which was artfully removed from the encasing rock by Ricardo. We continued to collect numerous shark and ray teeth from throughout the stratigraphy until the rising tide forced us to quit work and move to a different site before we found ourselves stranded.

We located a dirt road that leads to the beach near the mouth of the Sapho River, several kilometers south of Malembo. Earlier work in this area by Belgian paleontologists indicated the presence of marine mammal bones in conglomerates cropping out in this area.

Although we collected teeth belonging to sharks, rays, and crocodiles, we weren’t able to find any mammal fossils. Ricardo hiked northward down the beach until he reached Malembo Point and found a fossil bird bone. Since bird bones are hollow and often small, they are relatively fragile and have a low preservation potential, so this is a major discovery!

Scott preparing to measure the stratigraphic section at Landana.

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