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From the Field posts

Jack Tseng and Camille Grohé, postdoctoral fellows in the Division of Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History, are blogging from the field during an expedition to Inner Mongolia. The post below is from Jack. Read the post from this expedition here.

Now that Camille and I are back in New York City, we’ve been going over the fruits of our labor from our two and a half weeks in Inner Mongolia. Here is a rundown of what we think were the most significant discoveries we made during the trip:

These 2014 Inner Mongolian fossils are cleaned and boxed, ready for shipping back to the lab.  ©AMNH/C. Grohé

These 2014 Inner Mongolian fossils are cleaned and boxed, ready for shipping back to the lab. 

©AMNH/C. Grohé


  • A better representation of the extinct mammal community that lived in Dahongshan about 16–19 million years ago, based on the teeth we found there of extinct deer, weasel, rats, and squirrels. More importantly, we think we’ve collected the first known teeth of chalicotheres (large, hoofed herbivores related to rhinos and horses) and beardogs (a group of enigmatic carnivores whose position on the carnivore family tree is still being studied) from the red beds, so called for their distinctive soil color. This rounding-out of our understanding of Dahongshan was surely worth the three days we spent in these scorching 104° F badlands.
Looking north at the spectacular red beds of Dahongshan in central Inner Mongolia. Note the trackways of sheep herds over the terrain.  © AMNH/J. Tseng

Looking north at the spectacular red beds of Dahongshan in central Inner Mongolia. Note the trackways of sheep herds over the terrain. 

© AMNH/J. Tseng


  • A collection of fossils representing six groups of mammals from a site previously unknown to expeditions either from the United States or from the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Key findings in the river valley of Wuliyasitai include partial jaws of several individuals of an extinct rhino species preserved in close proximity, and (much to my delight) two partial lower jaws of the wolf-like extinct hyena Hyaenictitherium. The hyena discovery helps to pin down the rough geologic age of this new fossil deposit because Hyaenictitherium went extinct in much of Eurasia during the early Pliocene (between 5.3 and 3.6 million years ago). 
Two partial lower jaws of the wolflike extinct hyena Hyaenictitherium from Wuliyasitai.  ©AMNH/J. Tseng

Two partial lower jaws of the wolflike extinct hyena Hyaenictitherium from Wuliyasitai. 

©AMNH/J. Tseng


  • Connections made to the Museum’s Central Asiatic Expeditions in the Tunggur tablelands, including visits to the classic fossil localities of Wolf Camp, Platybelodon Camp, and Mandelin Chabu (where the Museum’s Roy Chapman Andrews and his team first discovered fossils in central Inner Mongolia). During our 2014 visit, we even collected a headstamp from a shotgun shell that was in production in the U.S. from 1924–1930, so likely to have been left there from either Andrews’ 1928 or 1929 Central Asiatic Expedition to Tunggur.
Fossils and Central Asiatic Expedition artifacts from the Platybelodon Camp locality in the Tunggur tableland, including a headstamp from a shotgun shell. ©AMNH/J. Tseng

Fossils and Central Asiatic Expedition artifacts from the Platybelodon Camp locality in the Tunggur tableland, including a headstamp from a shotgun shell.

©AMNH/J. Tseng


Laboratory research into some of our new field discoveries is now starting in New York and Beijing. We hope the new specimens will keep us busy until our next expedition to Inner Mongolia in 2015!

This expedition is funded by the American Museum of Natural History and the National Natural Science Foundation of China. Additional support for this work was provided by the Franco-American Fulbright Scholar program, the AMNH Frick Fund (Paleontology), and the U.S. National Science Foundation. 

Read the first post in the series here.