Opening a fossil quarry is always an exciting moment, but especially today, because an important specimen that was partially excavated in 2017 is going to finally be collected this season! The mosasaur from this quarry, identified as the species Globidens phosphatius, was a large marine lizard that preyed on massive bivalves, with large shell-crushing teeth shaped like mushrooms. This find represents the most complete and well preserved skeleton of this rare species ever discovered. The team ran out of time to complete the excavation in 2017, so the specimen was capped with plaster jackets, and buried to camouflage it’s location.
After breakfast (with more delicious Angolan coffee), two of our team members, Alexandra and Miguel, were dropped-off at the mosasaur site to begin removing the overburden from the blocks containing the bones. The other team members were meeting the governor in Namibe. We had relocated the exact position of the fossil the day before with gps and photographs, so the work was started with shoveling and brushing away the sediment overlying the mosasaur blocks. Although this kind of work may seem tedious, it is actually exciting, since bones can be exposed at any moment. Working diligently, the blocks containing the mosasaur bones were slowly uncovered, along with isolated plesiosaur and mosasaur teeth! When digging in Bentiaba, there is always more to find…!!!
In addition to previously uncovered bones, new mosasaur bones were discovered alongside the plastered blocks. The sediment surrounding them was chipped away revealing they were limb elements. In the late afternoon, the rest of the team returned to Bentiaba and arrived at the site with another new team member, Geoveth! He grew up in Angola and studied geologic engineering at the Universidad de Moa in the Republic of Cuba. Just a few minutes walking around and showing him the bones and teeth spilling out of the rock outcrops was all that was needed for him to appreciate the amazing richness of Bentiaba.
Coming back into camp, after a day’s work was welcomed by warm showers, and for dinner: roasted gazelle! Tomorrow we start by removing overburden and expanding the quarry into the hillside.