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Mongolia’s Flaming Cliffs and the Dinosaur Eggs of Chapman, the original Indiana Jones

The first fossilized dinosaur egg was discovered in 1859 by Frenchman Jean-Jacques Poech, but he mistakenly thought his finding was an egg of a giant bird.

Flaming Cliffs – Gobi Desert – Mongolia

In 1922 the most famous American explorer of all times started the very first motorized paleontology expedition with the help of the American Museum of Natural History. The explorer was Roy Chapman Andrews, and the expedition, also the largest of its time, was part of a series named Central Asiatic Expeditions.

Chapman departed from China and later entered Mongolia, finding many hardships and no bones.

Experience Chapman’s expedition in this short Museum of Natural History video

On a mid-July late afternoon, the expedition was lost in the Gobi desert. In the distance, he and his team saw a cliff that glowed with such an intense reddish light that it seemed it was on fire.

The locals told Chapman the place was called Bayansag. With nothing to lose, he directed his expedition to the site. Fate stepped in: His cameraman fell and rolled down the cliff finding multiple bone fossils right over the ground!

Chapman was amazed not only by the findings but the beauty of the site and penned it as Flaming Cliffs.

Sadly, the expedition had to leave the area but returned in 1923 to find not only many new species of dinosaurs but also the first recorded findings of dinosaur eggs.

The story of the expedition. The video uses original footage.

Today, Baynsag is known worldwide as Flaming Cliffs. Even though there is no digging being conducted in the area anymore, the few explorers that visit the site can walk on Chapman steps and see many remains of broken fossilized eggshells and bones.

Flaming Cliffs are located just an hour+ away from our high-end lodge in the Gobi desert, and of course, we plan all our excursions for the afternoon to experience the same impressive glow that attracted Chapman to the site.

The best way to experience Flaming Cliffs and learn more about Chapman and Mongolian Paleontology is to join one of our Mongolia Expeditions. You can check the details of the expedition by clicking here.

In the meantime, check the videos included in the article. Those are some of the videos that we share with our Mongolia guests.

You may also find interesting this book about Chapman’s Central Asiatic expeditions:

Sadly, fossil poaching is a big issue in Mongolia. Even though the problem persists, ecotourism has had an important positive impact on reducing it.

In the following video Dr. Bolortsetseg Minjin, from the Institute for the Study of Mongolian Dinosaurs, shares details about the history and current situation of Mongolian Paleontology.

Dr. Bolortsetseg Minjin of the Institute for the Study of Mongolian Dinosaurs shares details of the past, present, and future of Mongolian Paleontology

If you want to check what researchers are doing in the Goby today, check the following video by the American Museum of Natural History:

Learn what is happening today in the field of Paleontology in the Goby desert

New paths Expeditions Mongolia explorers visit the Flaming Cliffs walking on Chapman’s footsteps.

Mongolia is a very diverse destination and NPE has been exploring its most remote corners for over two decades. To learn all that Mongolia, the land of the eternal blue skies and Genghis Kahn offers visit:

https://www.npexpeditions.com/expeditions/mongolia-private-tour-expedition/

Saving Madagascar Baobabs one at a time

“I must see the giant Bao Babs!” This is a line we hear on almost every call we receive from explorers evaluating visiting Madagascar, the Island of the endemics.

Giant Baobabs during sunset excursion at Baobab Avenue – Morondava – Madagascar

The genus Adansonia -Babobabs- are found only in Madagascar (seven species), continental Africa (two species), the Arabian Peninsula (two species), and Australia (one species)

Of the seven species in Madagascar, six are endemic to the Island, and this includes the tallest and oldest of them all, the Giant Baobab, also known as Grandidier’s baobab (Adansonia grandidieri). I am sure you have seen them more than once in magazines and documentaries photographed or filmed at the famous Avenue of the Baobabs.

This iconic and beautiful destination is just an hour and a few minutes’ drive away from the charming coastal town of Morondava in western Madagascar.

Giant Baobab on the road to Kirindy National Park from Morondava – Madagascar

Baobabs are unique in many ways. Not only their shape, size, and age set them apart (They can live well over 1000 years!), but also their capacity to resist bush fires. It is common to see burned fields with the giants standing in the middle, unharmed in any discernible way.

Despite their impressive resistance and the fact that locals have very little use of their barks and none for their trunks, Giant Baobabs are an endangered species due to habitat loss and the lack of seed dispersers.

The road to Baobab Avenue

Yes, even though Baobabs in other parts of the world have animal species dispersing their seeds, in Madagascar, there is no known natural disperser.

But of course, they must have had them. It is currently believed that there were some large lemurs and giant tortoises that could have been eating the fruits of baobabs and later discarded the seeds over new areas. Those baobab natural seeds dispersers disappeared after the arrival of humans to the Island about 1000 years ago.

All NPE Madagascar safari expeditions include two visits to Baobab Avenue, one at sunset.

Today, multiple projects in Madagascar work on the reproduction and planting of Baobabs of all seven species.

These efforts started timidly a few decades ago, just around the same time that New Paths Expeditions initiated its safari operations in Madagascar. Gladly, about five years ago, such projects have multiplied considerably, a bet on a very distant future considering the growth rates of the species.

Baobab nursery at Baobab Avenue – Morondava – Madagascar

During New Paths expeditions in Madagascar, we include two visits to the Avenue of the Baobabs, one during the daytime, and another one at sunset time. All our explorers are invited, at no extra cost, to plant a giant Baobab in the area.

By the way, New Paths Expeditions offers a free return trip to Madagascar to all explorers that plant a Baobab, so they can see the tree they planted when its riches its prime, some 1000 years in the future 🙂

Plant a Baobab during an NPE Madagascar expedition – Return trip included 🙂

If you are interested in seeing the Giant Baobabs in their natural habitat, help in their reproduction, and observe in the wild 14 species of lemurs including the Indri-Indri -the largest of all lemurs, the Madame Berthe’s lemur -the smallest primate in the world, foosas, and many other endemics of the Island check our pioneering and award-winning expedition.

Click on the image above to check the Madagascar safari expedition tour details

We are glad to announce our recently improved itinerary has reduced even more the drives over bad roads thanks to a new charter flight from Berenty Reserve, the paradise for Ring-tailed and Dancing lemurs, to Morondava, the coastal town close to the Avenue of the Baobabs and door to Kirindy forest, the most threatened habitat on Earth.

All NPE Madagascar safari expeditions include two visits to Baobab Avenue, one at sunset.

Check the itinerary, and if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. Our 15 years of experience in Madagascar is always at your service.

https://www.npexpeditions.com/expeditions/madagascar-expedition/

The Hood Lava Lizard

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Microlophus delanonis lava lizard

The Hood Lava Lizard or Española Lava Lizard (Microlophus delanonis) is one of the nine different endemic species of Lava Lizard from the Galapagos. This lizard is special because his ancestor was the first to colonize the archipelago, between 3.7 to 1.4 million years ago. Is easy to find them taking a sunbathing at noon or doing push-ups above rocks. This red coloration is typical in females. In contrast, the males have a brownish coloration and a black dewlap.

The Red-fronted Lemur

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lemur-madagascar

 

The Red-fronted lemur is medium-sized lemur with a long tail, the red-fronted lemur (Eulemur rufifrons) differs in appearance between the sexes. Although the male and female don’t differ in size, the male red-fronted lemur exhibits a gray to grey-brown coat with a bushy reddish-brown crown on the head, while the female has a reddish-brown coat and a dark crown. Both sexes have paler underparts, white patches above the eyes, and a black muzzle, often with a dark line extending up onto the crown.

The ears of the red-fronted lemur are not prominent, and its eyes are usually orange-red. All infant red-fronted lemurs show male colouration for the first three to four months of life.

Until recently, the red-fronted lemur was considered to be a secondary name for the red-fronted brown lemur (Eulemur rufus), which was itself previously considered to be a subspecies of the brown lemur (Eulemur fulvus). However, evidence now strongly suggests that the red-fronted lemur is a distinct species.

Galapagos Marine Iguana

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Galapagos Marine Iguana

In Galapagos, you will see Marine Iguana, which .is one of the few species of Lizards that will forage around the sea, and that is classified as a marine reptile. They are capable of diving down up to 30 feet into the water to find food and have a natural ability to swim and to move around with speed.

The body of this species of Lizard ranges from black to a light shade of gray. They may be thought of as different Lizard species when someone sees the different colors of them but they are all the same. The darker colors help them to be able to get more sunlight and that helps with their body temperature.

The body is covered with short spikes on the head and all down the back. This serves to deter various predators and even other types of Lizards. This gives them a mean look though which is ironic as they are very timid and shy for the most part. They have webbing between their toes that allow them to move around with ease in the water.

The males are longer than the females with a size of about 5 ½ feet. The females are about 2 feet shorter. In the water, they are fast and graceful but movement on land is clumsy and takes lots of energy for the Galapagos Marine Iguana. You will notice that they have dorsal fins and a long tail.

These features of the body allow them to move in the water with little energy being expended. They use their sharp claws to help them when the current is heavy and when they need to get onto land.

Eastern Yellow-billed Hornbill

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ethiopian-bird

Eastern Yellow-billed Hornbill also nicknamed “flying banana” because of its beak Physical

Eastern yellow-billed hornbills have black wings with white spotted wing-coverts. They have a black tail and large yellow beak with slight casque. They have black, bare skin around the eye and males have a pink skinned throat. They grow up to 16-18” in length and weigh up 6 to 10 ounces. Its diet is mainly based on seeds, small insects, spiders, scorpions, termites and ants

Habitat & Range: North-eastern Africa, they live in dry thorn fields, broad-leafed woodlands, forests, savannahs, and shrublands

Life Span: various sources estimate from 20-40 years in the wild, 50 in captivity.

Perils in the wild: Crowned eagles, leopards, chimpanzees, humans, habitat destruction

Physical Adaptations:

– Strong beak to crack seeds, and find insects

– Hornbills have huge, two-tiered beaks that cause the birds to appear top-heavy. The bill is long forming dexterous forceps. The cutting edges are serrated for breaking up food.

– The hornbill is one of the few birds that have eyelashes to shield them from sun, dust, and debris. Their eyelashes are modified feathers.

– Stocky body has air sacs under the skin over the back and shoulder area which may cushion the female from injury in her cramped nest

– The tail is utilized as a rudder in flight. It also serves as a prop, bracing the male while he clings to the nest-hole entrance.

– Strong feet provide a secure grip, particularly for the male as he perches to feed his mate through the slit in the nest hole.

– Only bird group (hornbills) in which the first two neck vertebrae are fused to support the skull

White-eared jacamar

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White-eared jacamar

White-eared jacamar from Amazon Peru

 

The White-eared Jacamar is the geographically more widespread of the two species that comprise the genus Galbalcyrhynchus, which is restricted to western Amazonia. The other species, the Purus Jacamar (Galbalcyrhynchus purusianus), substitutes the White-eared Jacamar to the south of its range. As its name suggests, the White-eared Jacamar’s most striking plumage feature is the conspicuous white ear coverts-patch, and this instantly distinguishes the present species from its only congeneric. Both species are otherwise chunky-bodied, broad-winged, and short-tailed jacamars, with overall reddish-chestnut plumage. The White-eared Jacamar ranges from southern Colombia south to northeast Peru, and east through western Brazil, at least as far as the confluence of the Rio Solimões with the Rio Purus. It inhabits lowland primary forest, both terra firme and seasonally flooded areas, and is usually easily seen due to its liking for clearings and other semi-open areas, often beside rivers and streams.

Ranitomeya Imitator Varadero

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frog-amazon-peru

Varadero morph

This is another lowland form of imitator, first discovered in 2004 by Craig Greenhalgh on a lowland trek across part of Peru. This species is strange in that it occurs in close proximity to the yellow-striped lowland imitator with no major barriers separating the two morphs. And as is apparent, the two morphs look nothing alike. This infers that the frog has undergone strong local adaptation, either due to mimicry, sexual selection, or a combination of the two. In 2005, we were able to find this frog in very high densities in old secondary/young primary forest breeding in some sort of Heliconia, as well as in tree-holes. This morph was heavily smuggled from 2006 to present, although it is now legally available through imports from Understory Enterprises. This morph appears to be a mimic of the “orange-and-blue” fantastica morph.

Sparkling Violetear Hummingbird

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Sparkling-violetear-hummingbird-machu-picchu-cuzco-peru

 

The sparkling violetear hummingbird (Colibri coruscans) is widespread in highlands of northern and western South America, including a large part of the Andes (from Argentina and northwards), the Venezuelan Coastal Range and the Tepuis. It occurs in a wide range of semi-open habitats, even in gardens and parks within major cities such as Quito, and is often the commonest species of hummingbird in its range. The sparkling violetear is most abundant near coniferous or evergreen eucalyptus forests. It is highly vocal and territorial.

The sparkling violetear is the largest violetear at 13 to 15 cm (5–6 in) long. Male birds weigh 7.7 to 8.5 grams (0.27 to 0.3 oz) while females weigh from ounces 6.7 to 7.5 grams (0.24 to 0.26 oz). This hummingbird resembles the green violetear, but that species generally prefers more humid habitats, is obviously smaller and lacks the distinct purple-blue chest-spot and chin of the sparkling violetear. According to it has the smallest mean blood-air barrier thickness (0.183 µm) and the highest mass-specific respiratory surface area in birds (87 cm²/g).

Sparkling violetears are solitary and aggressive. Birds declare their territory by singing. The birds sing much of the day, and (in different parts of their range) sub-groups develop their own calls. Breeding seasons vary by region. Birds in Venezuela mate from July through October. Birds find mates at leks, areas where groups of males try to attract a female to mate. After mating, the male was once believed to leave all nesting responsibilities to the female. However, according to reports, male sparkling violet-ears were seen twice caring for their young. The mother lays two eggs in a tiny, cup-shaped nest made of twigs and other plant material. Eggs hatch in 17 to 18 days. The young fledge in three weeks.