West Coast Fossil Park

West Coast Fossil Park

Fossil Park

Hendry, in "Langebaanweg; a record of past life" (Cape Town, Rustica Press, 1982) states; "The view is one of ever-increasing clarity of an environment that has long since irrevocably changed for the worst, mainly because of a deterioration in the local climate and the detrimental effects of human activity". Climatic changes include significant changes in sea level.

The Late Tertiary is a period of geological time between 24 and 1.7 million years ago. The first fossil finds at Langebaanweg were made at the SAMANCOR phosphate mine in 1958. Since then a huge collection of fossils have been recovered that form the largest single collection within the South African Museum.

About 200 species of invertebrate and vertebrate animals have so far been recorded at the site. These include over 80 mammals and at least 60 birds. At the Varswater formation the variety is matched by the astonishing quantity of fossils. It is the largest assemblage of pre-Quarternary bird bones in the World. In one deposit a vast number of bones occur, ranging from mice to whales, and include the remains of over 500 sivatheres, an extinct relative of the giraffe. Other large extinct mammals include a sabre-toothed cat, a bear (Agriotherium africanum), a giant pig, rhinoceros and elephant.

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