News Release

African diamond mine reveals dinosaur and large mammal tracks

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Society of Vertebrate Paleontology

Berlin, Germany (November, 2014) – Unexpectedly one of the largest diamond mines in Africa, Catoca in Angola, holds 118 million year old dinosaur, crocodile and large mammal tracks. The mammal tracks show a raccoon-sized animal, during a time when most were no larger than a rat.

Nearly 70 distinct tracks were recovered in the Catoca mine in Angola. All the tracks were found in a small sedimentary basin, formed about 118 Ma, during the Early Cretaceous, in the crater of a kimberlite pipe.

The most important of these finds are those whose morphology is attributable to a large mammalian trackmaker, the size of a modern raccoon. There is no evidence from bones or teeth of such a large Early Cretaceous mammal from Africa or elsewhere in the World. The most comparably sized mammalian skeleton is known from China, and is 4-7 Ma older than the Angolan tracks. It has an estimated head-body length between 42 and 68 cm, but because it is missing hands and feet, a comparison with the tracks from Catoca is not possible.

Nearby, 18 sauropod tracks were also found, with a preserved skin impression. These are the first dinosaur tracks found in Angola, and were discovered by the same paleontologist, Octávio Mateus, who found Angolatitan adamastor, the first Angolan dinosaur ever found, in 2005. Another trackway was attributed to a crocodilomorph trackmaker, a group that includes all modern crocodiles and extinct relatives, and has a unique laterally rotated handprint.

The tracks from Catoca represent the first fossils from the inlands of Angola ever found. The first mammal tracks were discovered in December, 2010 by the mine geologist Vladimir Pervov who contacted the paleontologist Octávio Mateus, who visited and collected the footprints in July 2011 and found the dinosaur tracks. For almost eight months, the Catoca Diamond Mine, fourth largest diamond mine in the World, stopped mining that sector, in order to preserve the findings and make the study possible. This work is part of the PaleoAngola Project, a scientific program of collaboration between various international institutions with the aim to research and promote vertebrate paleontology in Angola.


More information:

Marzola, M., Mateus, O., Schulp, A.S., Jacobs, L.L., Polcyn, M.J., Pervov, V. 2014. Early Cretaceous tracks of a large mammaliamorph, a crocodilomorph, and dinosaurs from an Angolan diamond mine. Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Annual Meeting, Program and Abstracts.

About the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology

Founded in 1940 by thirty-four paleontologists, the Society now has more than 2,300 members representing professionals, students, artists, preparators, and others interested in VP. It is organized exclusively for educational and scientific purposes, with the object of advancing the science of vertebrate paleontology.

Society of Vertebrate Paleontology website:

Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology

The Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology (JVP) is the leading journal of professional vertebrate paleontology and the flagship publication of the Society. It was founded in 1980 by Dr. Jiri Zidek and publishes contributions on all aspects of vertebrate paleontology.

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MARCO MARZOLA is an Italian student studying in Portugal. During his academic studies, completed with a Master in Evolution, he mainly focused on dinosaur tracks from Northern Italy. Since November, 2012, he collaborates with the Museum of Lourinhã (Portugal). He worked as researcher for the international project DinoEggs, focused on the study of dinosaur and crocodile eggs from the Late Jurassic of Portugal and led by Prof. Octávio Mateus. Currently looking for a PhD, his main fields of interest are systematic and ichnology of Mesozoic archosaurs.

OCTAVIO MATEUS is professor of Paleontology at the Nova University of Lisbon, Portugal. He found the first dinosaur in Angola, in 2005, and the dinosaur tracks from Catoca, integrated in PaleoAngola Project. His main interests are Late Jurassic dinosaurs of Portugal, but he also focused different studies on other Mesozoic archosaurs, such as phytosaurs, mosasaurs, plesiosaurs, crocodiles, and turtles. His interest for paleontology and fossils has taken him to the United States, Brazil, Greenland, Laos, Tunisia, Mozambique, Mongolia, Morocco, South Africa, and Angola.

ANNE S. SCHULP is a senior researcher in vertebrate paleontology at the national natural history museum Naturalis in Leiden, The Netherlands. Dr. Schulp's research mainly focuses on dinosaurs and mosasaurs, with a particular interest in paleoecology, the application of stable isotope analysis and dinosaur tracks. He is currently developing the new dinosaur gallery scheduled to open in 2017. He is one of the first members of the PaleoAngola Project research group.

LOUIS L. JACOBS is professor of Earth Sciences at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, USA, and former president of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. His research concerns the interrelationships of biotic and abiotic events through time. His fieldwork is currently focused through Projecto PaleoAngola on the iconic, puzzle-like fit of Africa and South America, as viewed through the rocks and fossils of coastal Angola.

MICHAEL L. POLCYN is a lecturer and researcher in the Huffington Dept. of Earth Sciences at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas, USA. His current research interests include evolutionary patterns and processes in secondarily adapted marine amniotes with a particular focus on Mosasauroidea. He is also the founder and director of the Digital Earth Science Lab at SMU, a facility focused on applying imaging and other computer-based technologies to problems in paleontology. His fieldwork is currently focused in Upper Cretaceous marine deposits of Angola.

VLADIMIR PERVOV is a Russian geologist who works for the Sociedade Mineira de Catoca, Angola. He is the discoverer of the first Catoca tracks and his collaboration was fundamental for their preservation and the survey. He also gave precious insights into the deposition of the sedimentary rocks in this unusual environment.

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