Michigan State University masthead

Dateline: Gondwana - New Fossil Discoveries from Tanzania

October 3, 2004 - July 5, 2005
West Gallery

Image of Dateline: Gondwana - New Fossil Discoveries from Tanzania ExhibitCurrent and ongoing field research in Tanzania, in East Africa, has uncovered important new fossil evidence that is helping to piece together the story of how life evolved on the long-ago Southern Hemisphere "supercontinent" of Gondwana.

That field work is the subject of a new exhibit at the Michigan State University Museum, opening Sunday, Oct. 3: "DATELINE: GONDWANA -- New Fossil Discoveries from Tanzania."

The "supercontinent" of Gondwana included all of the major Southern Hemisphere land masses -- Africa, South America, Antarctica, India, Madagascar, and Australia -- and existed into the Cretaceous Period. Over the course of many millions of years, the land masses making up Gondwana gradually "drifted" apart, with most reaching their current position by near the end of the Cretaceous, around 70-80 million years ago. This continental drifting had a major effect on the evolution and distribution of many animals and plants, including some still living today, and much attention has been focused on Gondwanan fossils in recent years.

Africa, however, remains largely a mystery in comparison with the better-known fossil records from other parts of Gondwana. New fossil discoveries from Tanzania featured in the exhibit are helping to close this "African Gap." A team from MSU, Ohio University, Idaho State, and the University of Dar es Salaam (in Tanzania) have made important new discoveries, including mammals, dinosaurs and dinosaur eggshell, birds, crocodiles, turtles, frogs and fishes, that are helping to piece together the African part of this developing story.

Also highlighted in the exhibit are the experience of conducting field work in a remote area and the process of finding, recovering and preserving fossils. A Special Exhibit Reception and Gallery Tour is set for Sunday, November 14, from 2 to 4 p.m., and the program is free of charge.

The research in Tanzania was made possible in part by funding from the MSU Intramural Research Grants Program, National Geographic Society Committee for Research and Exploration, L.S.B. Leakey Foundation, Jurassic Foundation, and Ohio University.