Dinosaur bones aplenty discovered in remote region of Thailand
Thousands of dino bones found in Khorat Plateau.
Tue, Jul 13, 2010 at 08:43 PM
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
In a remote area of northeastern Thailand known for its sleepy, rice-farming villages and inaccessibility (it's separated from the rest of the country by a mountain chain) lies some of the richest troves of dinosaur bones ever discovered. The Khorat Plateau is home to such a plethora of fossils that they are literally popping out of the banks of the rivers that flow through the region.
About 200 million years ago, the first dinosaurs made their way into the area, and it must have been ideal territory for the ancient beasts as they settled in and proliferated. Thousands of bones have been recovered from the area over the last 30 years, with more being uncovered weekly. According to the NY Times, sometimes three or four new discoveries are made in a month, and while this rate of discovery isn't quite as prolific as in other areas of Asia (China in particular), there are also many fewer paleontologists working in the country (only about 10 specialists), meaning that only a small percentage of the potential discoveries have been made thus far. According to the Times:
"Paleontologists have documented five new genuses of dinosaurs and six previously unknown species since research began in the 1980s in partnership with French scientists. About 10,000 dinosaur bones have been collected nationwide in three decades, scientists say."
In fact, many of the major fossil discoveries have been made by local people over the years, including schoolchildren, monks and farmers. For years, locals had no idea what to do with the bones, using them as decoration or sometimes destroying them as it wasn't understood what they were. Now, more widespread education means that young people especially are familiar with dinosaurs and the bones they've left behind. Though there has been some illegal exportation of bones (which are technically the property of the state), most of the new discoveries make it into the hands of scientists.
The current princess of Thailand, Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, has recognized the importance of the fossils (apparently she's an avid paleontology fan) as she recently opened the Sirindhorn Museum, which showcases both fossils and mockups of the dinosaurs that once roamed the area. Visitors and locals alike have made the museum a popular local attraction, and I'm guessing that most of the local kids are pretty excited to find out that dinosaurs once lived in their own backyards — there's even one of the world's best examples of a Tyrannosaurus footprint, complete with giant claws marks forever preserved in the rock.