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Dinosaur Hunters 2003

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Chip Taylor Communications, 2 East View Drive, Derry, NH 03038-4812; 800-876-CHIP (2447)
Produced by OR Media Productions
Directed by Nigel Fraser
VHS, color, 52 min.

Sr. High - Adult
Biology, History

Date Entered: 04/07/2004

Reviewed by Gloria Maxwell, Reference Librarian, Penn Valley Community College, Kansas City, MO

Dinosaur fossils have already been discovered in parts of Africa - Niger, Morocco, Sudan, and Egypt. Professor Dick Moody of England’s Natural History Museum, believes that Tunisia could possibly hold the world’s first complete dinosaur skeleton. Moody considers knowledge of a region’s geology to be extremely important in finding dinosaur fossils. With that belief in mind, he feels that the mountains of Tunisia provide the optimum conditions to produce a complete dinosaur skeleton. The Tataouine Mts. In southern Tunisia emerged in such a way that flat plateaus, as opposed to other mountain ranges (such as the Rockies), where the plateaus are bent. The greatest chance of success in finding a complete dinosaur skeleton lays a place where the sediments are flat. Dinosaur hunters know which sedimentary layer holds dinosaur fossils. They can pinpoint this layer from one hill to another, and start looking and digging where it’s eroded.

It took two years for Moody and his team of scientists to get permission from the Tunisian government to hunt for fossils in southern Tunisia. A seven-hour drive from the capital of Tunis takes them to the Tataouine Mountains for 10 days of fossil hunting in conjunction with a team of scientists from the Arab City of Science. Initial finds include fossil trees and ferns that indicate an environment totally different from today, and one that was favorable to dinosaurs. One of their most significant finds is a Spinosaurus vertebra. Spinosaurus is believed to be forty feet long. The only other Spinosaurus fossil was found in Egypt by Germans before World War II. The fossil was taken to Dresden, where bombs destroyed it.

The ten days pass all too quickly, leaving the promise of more intriguing fossil finds for a future expedition. It takes another nine months to receive permission from the Tunisian governments and by the local governors for a second ten-day expedition. Again, it will be a joint team of English and Tunisian scientists. Any fossils found must stay in Tunisia. Part of the negotiations seeks permission for study of fossils by the world’s experts in those particular fields, but this is not guaranteed.

Rains delay the start of this expedition, and, once they arrive at their destination, they find the quarry is being mined by locals. The locals are hired to assist with the digging. The local governor provides a mechanical digger to aid them. Once a Spinosaurus tooth is found, the rest of the digging is done by hand in order to safeguard the fossils. Evidence of lungfish and shark tooth fossils spark a disagreement between the two teams of scientists. The Tunisians argue that the area must have been a marine environment in the past, while the English scientists counter that it could have been river channels rather than a marine environment. They suggest sending the fossils outside the country for examination and study by experts, which the Tunisians refuse to do.

The arrival of the local governor provides news coverage that airs on national television. Professor Moody stresses the need to preserve this site, by fencing, if nothing else. Moody envisions an African Dinosaur Park, but worries that local quarry workers will ruin the site and destroy any fossils it contains. An Iguanodon tooth is among the fossils found, but efforts to persuade the Tunisians to allow it out of the country for study by experts in that field are not successful.

The second ten-day expedition ends and Moody has to leave without knowing if this important and major site will be saved.

A postscript states that the Tunisian government did protect the site. Professor Moody and his colleagues were not granted permission to return to-date. No official findings have been published.

The audio and video qualities of Dinosaur Hunters are excellent, and appropriate graphics enhance the information and provide suitable context for the video. It is suitable for Jr. and Sr. High school instruction, college and junior college science, paleontology, and natural and physical science courses.