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The dinosaur hunter seeking more than just bare bones
Time:28-06-2016  Hits:28

    Thailands rich source of high-quality fossils could help unlock evolutionary secrets, but generating funding has proved challenging. 
    

Between a rock and a hard place: Staff from Mahasarakham University work on a fossil excavation site in Isan, where dinosaurs roamed on lush floodplains more than 100 million years ago. 

IN SEARCH OF GIANTS   

    The studies on fossils in Thailand discovered several important specimens at the Phu Wiang excavation site, including a new species of Cretaceous sauropod and they also discovered teeth from a new species of carnosauria.

    Geological evidence shows that the disappearance of dinosaurs from what is modern-day Thailand may have been caused by environmental changes, perhaps driven by climate change and the Northeast may have experienced major flooding caused by rising sea levels at some point. The event caused salt water to become locked in the Northeasts lowlands, creating a kind of salt lake.

CLOSE TO THE BONES 

    Prior to the law becoming effective, fossils from Thailand were regularly smuggled onto the international black market, or made into amulets by local people who stumbled across them. 

    The 2008 law has played a major role in progressing paleontological research, as it allows the government to set budgets to hire more experts, fund research and build fossil museums. And yet only 20% of fossil have been analyzed to classify species and age. Thousands of other specimens are also awaiting analysis from other government offices and researchers. 

JURASSIC PARKS 
 

    "Fossil museums should be a part of the Thai education system. Instead of department stores, museums should be a meeting place for families to cultivate knowledge and interest in palaeontology," said Mr Tawsaporn. 


    But attracting visitors to fossil museums is a challenge -- most government-run dinosaur museums report small visitor numbers. Theme parks such as Dinosaur Planet, which opened earlier this year on Sukhumvit Road, have proved popular for tourists and locals, but place their focus on entertainment over education.

DIGGING DEEP 

    Despite more than three decades passing since the dawn of Thai palaeontological research, the PRC estimates it has uncovered less than 1% of the fossils hidden underground.

    Even still, the PRC lab is packed with thousands of Mesozoic fossil specimens ranging from bone fragments to teeth, fish scales and whole backbones of a herbivorous dinosaurs. 

You old fossil: The jaw of Jurassic carnosauria found in 2012 at Phu Noi, Kalasin. 

You old fossil: The jaw of Jurassic carnosauria found in 2012 at Phu Noi, Kalasin. 

Massive collection: Palaeontologist Varavudh Suteethorn at his lab at Mahasarakham University, where many specimens are waiting to be classified. 

Set in stone: A Paleontological Research and Education Centre staff member uses tools to remove a layer of rock from dinosaur fossils. 

-----NEWSPAPER SECTION: SPECTRUM | WRITER: PARITTA WANGKIAT 

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