Welcome to the blog of the Mesozoic vertebrates research group of the Bayerische Staatssammlung für Paläontologie und Geologie

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Virtual Jurassic

You might have wondered, why a blog (and also our website) that is dedicated to Mesozoic vertebrates sports a nice landscape picture in its header. Well, the answer is simple: The landscape you see there is made up by rocks of the Cañadón Asfalto Formation, the most productive geological unit for Middle Jurassic vertebrates in the southern hemisphere, and center of my fieldwork activities since more than ten years. This Middle Jurassic unit (we now know that the formation is considerably older than previously thought, being somewhere between 174 and 167 million years old) is exposed along the middle course of the Chubut river, in Chubut Province, Argentinean Patagonia. The picture you see is the sequence of the Cañadón Asfalto Formation on the eastern bank of the river, opposite to the village of Cerro Cóndor.

The village of Cerro Cóndor. Small, but world-famous amongst palaeontologists.

In the past twelve years, since we started our exploration project in 2000, the Cañadón Asfalto Formation has yielded an incredible wealth of fossils. Dinosaurs had already been described in the 1970ies by famous Argentinean palaeontologist José Bonaparte, but, during the years, we and other teams that collaborate with us found almost every vertebrate you might expect in a Jurassic ecosystem, from fishes, via frogs, turtles and pterosaurs up to mammals. And, of course, many more dinosaur remains, including three new taxa we described in the past years, Condorraptor, Manidens and Eoabelisaurus, the last of which was just described recently by my Argentinean colleague Diego Pol and me.

My cooperation partner in Argentina is the Museo Paleontológico Egidio Feruglio, where Diego works as a researcher. This institution has now dedicated a new exhibition to the Jurassic of Chubut. However, no need to run and book tickets to go to Trelew to see this exhibition: It is a virtual exhibition of the Jurassic ecosystem of the Cañadón Asfalto Formation! Thus, from your home computer, you can enter a building that resembles the real museum building in Trelew, walk through the entrance hall, where due credit is given to those who made the exhibition possible, and then go through a scientist's office into the exhibition.

The virtual exhibition hall of the Museo Paleontológico Egidio Feruglio
Here you see wonderful dioramas with plants and animals known from the Cañadón Asfalto Formation. You can go closer to these, and then click on the items, so that a window pops up and gives you additional information and figures of the actual fossil material. At the end of the museum, there is even a small cinema, where you can see movies about the (temporatily slightly misplaced) Cretaceous carcharodontosaur Tyrannotitan.

All in all, this virtual exhibition gives an excellent overview of the Jurassic in Chubut. Thus, take some time to stroll through a museum from your comfy armchair and discover the wonders of Jurassic life in southern Gondwana! Of course, it is not as good as wandering through the original exhibition, but certainly a great idea to further dissiminate scientific results. Another small wonder of the world wide web...

Disclaimer: I was not involved in this virtual exhibition, but came across it rather by accident. In any way, this was too good to not write about it ;-)

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