Niger Expedition Finds Lost World of African Dinosaurs and Ancient Humans

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Scientists with Paul Sereno’s team excavate a skeleton in the Sahara Desert. Photo: Sereno

Paleontologist Paul Sereno has big plans this year.

Now 64, Sereno-one of the world’s most famous dinosaur hunters-has earned a reputation for groundbreaking discoveries. But he still believes that his newest expedition will be the one that puts him in the history books.

With a huge team of scientists, locals, and bodyguards, Sereno will travel to Niger this month to try and unearth 25 tons of fossils-both saurian and human.

During past expeditions to the remotest reaches of the country’s Sahara Desert, Sereno discovered treasure troves of dinosaur bones, many of them from species new to science. But he also found an archaeologist’s dream: a rich fossil record of an ancient human society that lived in the desert during a time of abundant water and wildlife.

Actually, retrieving these once-in-a-lifetime discoveries won’t be easy.

Sereno and his team will face sand dunes, roaming bandits, extremist groups, and some of the Sahara’s most intense heat. Assuming all goes well, Sereno then plans on using the new collection to establish museums for both Niger and his own University of Chicago.

If you’re getting Indiana Jones vibes, Sereno wears that reference proudly. According to an overview of the expedition Sereno produced himself:

“This is high-powered, adventure-packed, cutting-edge science-as close as one will ever get to a real-life Indiana Jones experience-with a leader who can fill those boots and an international team of young scientists aiming to dig up a lost world of African dinosaurs.”

The expedition has already left. For the next several weeks, Sereno and the team will return to the Sahara in search of history.

Some of the new dinosaurs Sereno has discovered in the Sahara. Photo: Sereno

A new cast of dinos

The dinosaur species Sereno discovered in the Sahara read like a casting call for the next “Jurassic World” film.

They include a digging raptor, a reptilian armadillo, and a sail-backed predator. There are also new species of long-necked behemoths, 12-metre-long crocodiles, flying reptiles, and enormous predatory fish.

It turns out that “vast expanses of the Sahara have fossil-rich rocks,” Sereno wrote. While French paleontologists found dinosaur bones in Niger as far back as the 1950s, the landscape has remained mostly unexplored. That is, until Sereno started going there in 1993.

He’s brought back many finds to the Fossil Lab at the University of Chicago.

There, a team brings the species to life through research and artistic renderings.

These dinosaurs will be the “newest stars in Africa’s Lost World”, a major exhibit planned by Niger Heritage, a nonprofit that represents the next part of Sereno’s ambitious plan.

A map of the 2022 expedition’s planned route. Image: Paul Sereno
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