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fossil hunting

The Natural Environment
Nature Tour of the UAE
Wildlife in the UAE
Key animals
Captive breeding of rare breeds
Whales and dolphins in the UAE
Scorpions and snakes
Ornithology in the UAE
Environmental agencies
Fossil hunting

If palaeontology is your speciality, you will be interested to know that, according to scientists from the Natural History Museum in London, the UAE has the finest locations for discovering Middle East Cretaceous marine invertebrates and late Miocene Arabian continental vertebrate fossils. The three areas of importance are the Western Region of Abu Dhabi, the slopes of Jebel Hafit and the eastern mountains.

In the west, mainly around the coastal region to the north of the Abu Dhabi to As Sila road in the area from Tarif to Jebel Dhanna, jebels and sea cliff localities expose rocks of
Miocene age called the Baynunah and Shuwaihat Formations. This was the site of an ancient river system. Rare vertebrate fossils have been found in these rocks, including the lower jaw of a hippopotamus, the fragmented skull of an 8 million year old crocodile, and the molar tooth of a primitive elephant. Near to As Sila itself, 16 million year old marine carbonates outcrop at the foot of the escarpment years. Poorly preserved fossils such as gastropods and bivalves can with some difficulty be found in the rocks that were deposited in a shallow tropical sea.

At the foot of
Jebel Hafit, near where the road from the cement works passes through a man-made gorge, numerous fossils of the important marine microfossil, Nummulites, almost the size of a bottle-top, can be found. With them, lying loose on the scree slopes, are fragments of branching corals, oysters and gastropods, rare sea urchins and, even rarer, remains of barnacles and crab claws, all evidence that this region was part of a shallow tropical sea about 30 million years ago.

At the northern part of the jebel north towards Al Ain, south of the Khalid bin Sultan road, eroded flanks of the anticline are exposed in the wadi. Here very hard, massive limestones are preserved with their beds in a near vertical position. Numerous coral ‘heads’ are found here, some about 60 cm in diameter. The fossils in the eastern mountains were formed during the Cretaceous Period, 70 million years ago when a shallow warm sea lapped against the uplifted Hajar islands. The limestones formed in this period are now called the
Simsima Formation. The best exposures are found at Jebel Huwayyah – known as Fossil Valley, Jebel Rawdah, Jebel Buhays and Qarn Murrah.

Palaeontologists have identified more than 200 species of marine animals in the Simsima limestones, some new to science and one of the most diverse faunas of this age known anywhere in the world. Hidden in deep wadis in the Emirate of Fujairah lie outcrops of marine rocks deposited at the time that dinosaurs flourished – 150 million years ago. Various fragments of poorly preserved corals, sponges algae and bivalves can be found.

For more information on fossils and geology

Click here for comprehensive information on the UAE’s natural history
The Emirates: A Natural History

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