Giant Fossils Recovered From Venezuelan Oil Fields Shed Light On South America’s Prehistoric Megafauna

By Philip Ross on September 6, 2013 12:32 PM EDT

fossils
Venezuelan fossils, recovered from the oil fields of northern Venezuela, provide a picture of prehistoric South America as a land of giant animals, including a 10-foot-tall featherless chicken and a crocodile the size of a bus. (Photo: Reuters)

Venezuela's oil fields contain a treasure trove of prehistoric fossils more valuable to paleontologists than any amount of gooey, black tar. Venezuela's fossils, found mostly in the area north of the Orinoco River where the Atlantic Ocean formed 200 million years ago, range from giant birds to even more giant lizards.

Oil companies uncovered the prehistoric relics while drilling for oil. Many of the Venezuelan fossils have ended up in the Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Research, located on an 832-acre facility near San Antonio de los Altos in Miranda State.

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Scientists have recovered some 12,000 fossilized remains. Some of the more noteworthy Venezuelan fossil finds are that of a 6-ton mastodon, a crocodile the size of a bus, a 10-foot-tall pelican and the skull of a giant glyptodon, an ancestor of the armadillo as big as a car.

According to Phys.org, the fossils date from about 14,000 years ago to as far back as 370 million years.

Many of the Venezuelan fossils were recovered years ago, but it's taken paleontologists a long time to identify and classify them. Med India reports that once a fossil is recovered, scientists have to remove the sediment, transport the fossil, clean it and carefully compare it to already-identified specimens.

As if giant prehistoric fossils aren't enough, the paleontologists who found the Venezuelan oil fossils are already looking for their next big score. They hope to unearth human fossils in the area in order to prove the existence of prehistoric human life in the area.  

"We are close. You have to keep exploring the area. We have already found spearheads," the head of the Institute for Scientific Research's Laboratory of Paleontology told AFP. "What's lacking is reliable indication that man hunted the megafauna that we are finding. And lacking are human fossils."

Read more from iScience Times:

Dinosaur Fossils Auction: Scientists Appalled That 'Montana Dueling Dinosaurs' Fossil Will Be Sold, Not Studied [VIDEO]

700,000-Year-Old Canadian Horse Fossil Genome Is Oldest DNA Ever Sequenced [REPORT]

Oldest Primate Fossil: Is Archicebus Achilles Earliest Human Link?

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