In DepthPaleontology

Venezuela's woes hamper access to fossil trove

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Science  05 Aug 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6299, pp. 526-527
DOI: 10.1126/science.353.6299.526

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As Venezuela spirals deeper into economic and political chaos, its people are suffering from shortages of essential goods and rising crime. The environment is hostile for science as well, but a geological formation known as Urumaco holds a powerful allure for paleontologists. The site in northwestern Venezuela is replete with fossils of weird, supersized creatures that provide an ecological record of South America's last 20 million years. Its location in the heart of an anomalous tropical desert means that unlike in the Amazon or the jungles of Central America, the fossils are not covered by dense vegetation. But just as its star is rising, Urumaco is becoming a destination for only the most daring scientists.