The pandemic is also slowing the discovery of new dinosaurs

Because of the health context, a team of paleontologists had to cover research sites in Niger, where they have already discovered 11 new species of dinosaurs. She now hopes to find them intact when the context allows her to resume her activity.

In Niger, the pandemic cut short the search for dinosaur fossils, to the point that paleontologists had to cover some skeletons. As develops le Washington Post, the soil of the country is full of bones of these ancient creatures: more than 20 tons would be buried there. Remains from all eras, those of dinosaurs, but also those of extinct mammals and those of the first humans.

Two thirds of Niger’s territory is covered by the Sahara Desert. Dinosaurs lived there already more than 200 million years ago, when the ground was still covered with greenery and that is why today, it is one of the largest reserves of fossils on the African continent.

The discovery of new dinosaurs will await the regulation of the pandemic. // Source: Pxhere / CC0 Public domain (cropped photo)

In normal times, these archaeological sites are already threatened by smugglers and by the movement of the dunes. But since last year, the authorities have had to face two more important dangers, which forced the stop of the research. On the one hand, the Covid-19 pandemic: if it is only widespread to a much lesser degree compared to the most affected countries like France, it worries politicians. On the other hand, the country is facing an upsurge in armed fighting with supporters of The Islamic State.

Paleontologists forced to cover fossils

However, as the Washington Post explains, Niger had finally managed to structure at the national level its research activity on the historical richness of its soil. Paul Sereno, an American paleontologist who discovered nine new species of dinosaurs on Nigerien territory, had started working with local scientists. The fossils of his discoveries were to be repatriated from his laboratory in Chicago to two new Nigerien museums, one in the capital Niamey and the other in the Agadez region. These two museums should also welcome new discoveries when research resumes.

Result of this collaboration, the team led by Paul Sereno has already discovered 11 new species of dinosaurs in two years on the many archaeological sites of the desert. These fossils are now observed by other researchers, responsible for confirming the discovery.

But because of the pandemic and the armed conflict, scientists had to cover up the fossils she had been working on for several months. Before leaving the scene in 2020, they protected each of the skeletons with a plaster shell, to which they added a thin layer of sand. The objective: to protect and conceal the remains, so that they do not stir up lust. To top it off, the authorities have placed guards to repel any smugglers.

Covering excavation sites is not unusual, but doing so for such a long period of time that the Covid-related break is. From now on, we can only hope that these devices are sufficient to protect the historical richness of these sites before the researchers can resume their activity.

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