Friday 1 February 2013

The Dino that was found in a cupboard

It was believed to have been lost for more than a century. Though several searches had been launched, none seemed to know how and when it went missing. Over the years, it not only engaged national but international attention.
It took a team of experts not only from India but also from the United States to track down the missing object. And do you where it was found. In the very office whose property it was.
This priceless piece was one of the most important fossil in India of all times. It was the fossil of India’s first  recorded dinosaur.
has been rediscovered in Kolkata, according to a top scientific journal.
God only knows the amount of money spent on the search for
India’s first Dino that went missing more than 135 years ago. The search for the elusive Dino went on for ten years.
It took a team of people from the Geological Survey of India (GSI) and the University of Michigan  to discover the Dino is boxes that had remained unopened for several decades in the GSI headquarters in Kolkata.
The Dino was the fossil of  Titanosaurus Indicus, or the Indian Tital reptile. The fossil was originally discovered by Lieutenant –Colonel W H Sleeman of the British Army from Bara Simla and Chotta Simla near Jabalpur now in Madhya Pradesh in 1828  (The areas from where the fossils were first discovered are also called as the Deccan Traps).
He had led an expedition of cartographers and geologists to map the area. However, this specimen was formally described as Taitanosaurus Indica by Richard Lydekker 50 years later - in 1877. It went missing after 1877 once its plaster cast was sent to the Museum of Natural History Museum in London.
Lydekker was believed to be the last scientist to have handled the specimen.
The fossil parts discovered in the cupboard were the caudal vertebra (part of the tail) of Titanosaurus indicus, bones from another species, Titanosaurus blanfordi and other Triassic vertebrates which were all presumed missing. All these fossil fragments are part of  the Lydekker Collection.
During the time of the discovery of these fossils, only 115 dinosaur species or less than 10 percent of the 1,401 species known by 2004 had been identified and the Indian Dino was important as it could provide a valuable link to the history of palentology.
Well. Let me come back to the history of the missing Dino. Sleeman sent two fossil bones to G. G. Spilsbury, a civil surgeon, who himself collected a third bone from the same area. In 1832,
Spilsbury sent all three specimens to Calcutta antiquarian, James Prinsep. Later in 1862, these fossils handed over to Thomas
Oldham, the first Director of the Geological Survey of India. It was the Surgeon- botanist Hugh Falconer, co-discoverer of the Siwalik vertebrates , who first gave a description of  the two bones, which he classified as caudal vertebrae.
When the fossils were examined by Lyddeker, he realized that it was a new genre and he gave it the current name. It went missing shortly thereafter though a cast of the specimen was exhibited at the Museum of Natural History in London.
Though the original Dino was believed to have been lost, in the early 1900s, many dinosaur fossils were discovered around the original site of Jabalpur by scientists such as Charles Metley and Durgasankar Bhattacharji.
By the way, this was not the only Dino fossil that went missing. There have been several others, including large and small specimens of sauropod and theropod Dinosaurs.
The three-member Indo-US team found the Dino bones in the curatorial division of the GSI office.  The discovery has had an important effect on paleontology as researchers do not need to depend on casts provided by US and UK museums to work on. The Dino that was rediscovered will help researchers plug an important gap in the paleontological period in India.
What is more important is that the bones recovered from the vast fossil vertebrate and invertebrate collection are intact.
The discovery of the Dino fossil in 2012 was published in a journal called Current Science brought out by the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore.

No comments:

Post a Comment