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Prehistoric Harvest - 65-million-year-old dinosaur eggs are unearthed in Maharashtra - Outlook

Charubala Annuncio in Pisdura ()
19 February 1997

Title : Prehistoric Harvest 65-million-year-old dinosaur eggs are unearthed in Maharashtra
Author : Charubala Annuncio in Pisdura
Publication : Outlook
Date : February 19, 1997

The prehistoric has taken precedence near Anandwan, the leprosy
centre in Warora, Maharashtra, where Baba Amte and his workers are
busy creating history. Thousands of fossilised dinosaur eggs have
been found by paleontologist, Dr G.L. Badam of Deccan College,
Pune, and his team in Pisdura, a village about 10 km north of
Anandwan. Also found were bone fragments, shells and faecal
matter. This, says Dr Badam, "has been a nesting site for the
sauropod dinosaur".

Oval, about 13 cm long and five times the size of hen eggs, these
endless rows of eggs are being dated back 65 million years. The age
represents the end of the cretaceous era, the geological period
just before the earliest mammal appeared on the scene when hundreds
of species, including dinosaurs, suddenly became extinct.

While locals worship their 'sacred stones' and children play with
them oblivious of their significance, the region is proving to be a
paleontologist's delight. The different layers of soil have thrown
up antiquities belonging to historic periods as well. And provides
evidence of prehistoric life on Earth ranging from 65 million years
back to as recent as 30,000 years ago.

The Deccan College was intimated by the people at Anandwan who
while ploughing, unearthed fossilised remains of cattle, extinct
species of dogs as well as of the mammoth, the ancestor of the
elephant. The mammoth is estimated to be about two million years
old belonging to the period just before Man appeared.

The dinosaur eggs found are smaller than others found at other
nesting sites in India like the one found in Balasinor in Gujarat.
Paleontologists are attributing the possibility of an avian
metamorphism which may have occurred in the last stages of dinosaur
survival. This seems to indicate that these are the youngest eggs
found till now. The site gains further significance as it is
probably one of the last regions to have harboured dinosaurs,
before they gave way to the domination of mammals and Man.

Several theories exist about the reason for the dinosaur's
extinction: carnivorous dinosaurs dying out as the herbivores on
whom they preyed disappeared, volcanic activity during the
cretaceous period, geological changes which led to reduction of
land masses and impact of comets and asteroids among others. The
fossilised egg samples from Pisdura suggest that the dinosaurs in
this region died out due to volcanic activity, typical of the
cretaceous period. The embryos in eggs in developmental stages are
believed to have undergone hormonal imbalances, suffocation and
dehydration caused by changes in the environment leading to their
eventual desiccation. The pathologically thin shells of the eggs
recovered from the site in Maharashtra support these projections.

These dinosaur fossils are similar to ones found in Brazil,
Madagascar and Patagonia and endorse the theory that the Indian
peninsula was a part of the single huge mass of land, referred to
as Gondwana, which stretched from Africa to Australia in those
times. According to Dr Badam, this suggests landbridges in the
existing Indian and Atlantic Oceans or the persistence of large
remnants of the old Gondwana continent. The dinosaurs generally
nested in a fresh water environment, close to rivers or their
estuaries. The findings in Pisdura, however, have revealed the
coexistence of some marine fish too.

Also discovered are Stone Age tools belonging to Early Man dated
about 70,000 years back. The material suggests that this may have
been a work site in the past. Says Dr Badam: "We now hope to know
better the activity areas and the biological environment of Early
Man". Remnants of historic times dated back to just a few hundred
years like pottery, terracota figurines, beads, coins,
inscriptions, animal bones have also been unearthed.

To preserve these invaluable finds, Dr Amte is building a museum of
Natural History at the location with help from Dr Badam. While Dr
Badam's interest lies in the Paleolithic age, this finding has
altered his plans considerably. And his energies are now being
realigned in the direction of the dinosaur site. It's difficult,
after all, for Man to bypass a chance meeting with the rulers of
another era.

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