Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Fossil-hunting in a coal mine: a scientist's odyssey

This story from the Bangkok Post follows Dr Yaowalak Chaimane and her team as she makes one fossil discovery after another in a very challenging environment: Thailand's largest coal mine. One of her recent finds is Siamoadapis maemohensis, a new genus and species of primate from the Miocene ear. The animal shares intriguing similarities with the modern lemurs of far-away Madagascar. In addition, she comments, "The dentition of a Siamoadapis maemohensis is extremely unique. Normally all animals have premolars with teeth smaller than its molars but this primate is different. The teeth on premolars are exactly like its molars."

COMMENT: This is a fascinating story of perseverance and dedication. Dr. Chaimane has to walk five kilometers every day just to get to the new face in the hot and filthy pit mine, where she collects hundreds of kilograms of lignite, dust, and debris. But the discoveries keep her going.

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