Emily Hart takes us (way) back in time this week, to a very different Colombia - one well before the arrival of human beings… but in the process of looking back, we’ll also be looking forwards - to what the future on this planet might look like.
We have with us some of the team behind "Hace Tiempo" - an incredible book on Colombia’s paleontological past: Colombia’s leading palaeontologist, Carlos Jaramillo, Paleo-botanist at EAFIT University, Camila Martínez, and science communications specialist at Parque Explorer Luz Helena Oviedo.
This illustrated book - now in its second edition - is a paleontological journey through the country’s past, and winner of an Alejandro Ángel prize, one of the most important awards for scientists in Colombia. More than 30 Colombian palaeontologists, working all over the world, contributed to the book, which is available free online – http://repository.humboldt.org.co/handle/20.500.11761/36213 – the physical version is for sale through the website of the Humboldt Institute, a key partner in its creation.
Colombia is enormously fossil-rich and with a huge variety of habitats past and present Understanding Colombia’s ancient flora and fauna is key to understanding the country’s incredible biodiversity today, which is the product of millions of years of evolution, but in the alarmingly short term, is threatened by climate change and the accelerating global extinction of species.
Uniquely, the project also gives readers in Colombia a paleontological resource which relates to the land around them. Rather than the well-known dinosaurs like T-Rex or triceratops, this book presents prehistoric animals peculiar to Colombia, like the 6-tonne giant sloth which lived here 50 million years ago, giant turtles the size of a cars, or the megalodon which roamed Colombia’s waters, the biggest shark to ever exist – bigger than a school bus.
The Titanoboa, meanwhile, was a vast snake weighing over a tonne, which roamed 60 million years ago in the then-tropical jungles of La Guajira, ancestor to the anaconda and the boa constrictor, its body was 13 metres long and – at a cross section - the size of a bicycle wheel. It is the largest snake ever to roam the earth. The Titanoboa was discovered by Carlos himself only a few years ago - after analysing tons of rocks extracted from the Cerrejón mines still active in La Guajira today.
The new and expanded edition of the book - just out - includes a new chapter on Perijasaurus Lapaz, a long-necked herbivorous Colombian dinosaur discovered in 2018 in the Serranía del Perijá. Its name pays homage both to where it was discovered and to the 2016 peace agreement with the FARC, hence lapaz - which allowed palaeontologists to explore that region for the first time in decades.
So today we'll be talking all about what Colombia looked like a very long time ago, what happened since, what fossil records can teach us about climate change, and whether humans are in fact, as Carlos will argue, the least successful species ever to live on Planet Earth.
Direct download: RCC_494.mp3
-- posted at: 10:30am EST