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TRAVEL TO GOBI - TO GRAVEYARDS OF DINOSAURS

Blog | published: 2020-10-22

Part 1 – About Gobi desert in brief

The Gobi desert is located in the south part of Mongolia, and it is overall a cold desert with frost and occasionally snow occurring on its dunes and a rain shadow desert, formed by the Tibetan Plateau blocking precipitation from the Indian Ocean reaching the Gobi territory. The climate of the Gobi is one of great extremes, combined with big changes of temperature of as much as 45 °C (98 °F) in summer and -25C (25 °F) in the winter time. Also big changes in day temperature can occur not only seasonally but within 24 hours.

Despite the harsh conditions, Gobi desert region sustains many animals, including black tailed gazelles, wild bactrian camels, marbled polecats, sandplovers and wild ass. They are occasionally visited by gobi desert bear- mazaalai, snow leopards, and wolves. Lizards are especially well-adapted to the climate of the Gobi Desert, with approximately 30 species distributed across its southern Mongolian border. These wild animals eat the desert plants and shrubs, which are mostly adapted to drought. The surface is extremely diversified, although there are no great differences in vertical elevation. 

The modern Gobi Desert landscape was formed at ~2.6 Ma and was the result of the stepwise evolution of Asian topography and climate during the Cenozoic, dominated by Asian tectonic deformation and uplift, and the evolution of Asian monsoon climate and the westerly circulation, forced by global temperature change. А dry climate, basin of landforms, abundant sediment productions are the 3 main preconditions for the formation of Gobi Desert. The Gobi Desert is the source of many important fossils finds, including the first dinosaur eggs, twenty-six of which, averaging 9 inches in length, were uncovered in 1923. Why the Gobi desert is rich with dinosaurs and pterosaurs fossils? Now we look back into the nature history of the world and the geological formation of Gobi desert’s landscaping.

Part – 2. About the history of Gobi landscape formation

A half of billions years ago, the present Gobi desert region was covered by water and the aquatic animals started to be created in water such as jellyfish, conodonts and echinoids. By the start of the Carboniferous Period, which is dated back to 300 million years ago, the Earth begins to resemble its present state and the continents and some plateaus are raised and dry places were formed. Insects roamed the land and would soon take to the skies; sharks swam the oceans as top predators, and vegetation covered the land, with seed bearing plants, and forests soon to flourish. The Asian Gobi desert region was the best place for forest growing. But a quarter of a billion years ago, The Permian-Triassic extinction event eliminated over 90-95% of marine species all around the world. Less than 5 percent of the animal species in the seas survived. Paleontologists and paleo-biologists consider that the main reason of this mass extinction is the acid rain, generated by power-plant emissions and it devastated ecosystems of the world.  

After that 245 million years ago, new life and new formations of flora and fauna began to be formed in this region. By 170 million years ago, ancient aquatic animals- pleisosauruses, ancient walking animals- dinosaurs or mammals evolved, for example: first members of the Stegosauria group of dinosaurs appeared in the Gobi desert region. During the period of Mesozoic Era (between 245 million and 65 million years) vertebrates, mammals, all aquatic animals, lizards, butterflies, ants, bees and all kinds of animals were created, as well as coniferous and deciduous forests covered the land with the shrubs and grasses.

But again the terrible disaster faced the world flora and fauna after 184 million years. This time it was not the terrible rain, it was the 5 km wide asteroid, fallen from the space. The big speeding comet hit the earth in the present area of Mexican gulf and it made the 180 km wide big crater as named as Chicxulub crater. This Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event eradicated about half of all animal species, including  mosasaurs, pterosaurs, plesiosaurs, ammonites, belemnites, rudist and inoceramid bivalves, most planktic foraminifers, and all of the dinosaurs excluding the birds. But this extinction eliminates all of the dinosaurs specimen. Some continents covered again with water as well as the Gobi desert region.

The Gobi area become the bottom of the ocean and some part was a bottom of quite big sea, with lots of marine flora and fauna. The dinosaurs footprints, their food – hardy woods and shrubs were covered by mud, water and some of dead bodies of dinosaurs. 2.6 million years ago the Asian plateau is uplifted by the tectonic deformation and it became the dry land and stepside, it become the present landscaping is formed. That is why the gobi desert is rich with dinosaur fossils and their footprints, oil (which was made of ancient big forests and woods), fossils of some aquatic animals: shells, turtles, corals and so on….      

Part -3. Geological formations with dinosaurs’ graveyards

In present time Mongolian Gobi desert  region consists of 3 main geological and paleontological formations: Bayanshiree, Djadochta and Nemegt Formations.  

The Bayan Shiree Formation covers as big land of as 150 km long and 100 km wide areas. It dates to the late Cretaceous period – 110-93 million years ago and it is located in the eastern part of the Gobi desert: in the territory of present Dornogobi province and east part of Umnugobi province. The Bayan Shiree Formation is composed by varicoloured claystones and sandstones with calcareous concretions and characterized by grey mudstones and yellowish-brown medium grained sandstones. Up to 300 m (980 ft) thick, the most complete sections are found in there. Most of localities are mainly composed by mudstone,  silstones, sandstone, and conglomerates, with most of their sedimentation being fluvial.

In terms of biodiversity, therizinosaurs,  hadrosauroids and turtles were the most abundant vertebrates across this formation, as evidenced on numerous remains. In addition, most specimens of Gobihadros, come from this locality. Also, niche partitioning has been reported within the therizinosaurids Erlikosaurus and Segnosaurus, and the ankylosaurs Talarurus and Tsaganteegia. The formation locality is containing several famous places, which is rich of dinosaurs trails: Tsagaan teeg, Shar tsav, Baishin tsav, Burkhant and Bor guvee. Tsagaan teeg area is a graveyard of the ankylosaurs Talarurus and Tsaganteegia. The Baishin Tsav area is a graveyard of sauropods, who are nor predators. But the Shar tsav is the field with only footprints. It has more than 18000 footprints of 5 kinds of dinosaurs and it is now the open museum for travelers in Gobi desert. The most of the prints are small sized ones, which are considered as one of Avimimus or Mononykus. If Mongolian paleontoligists have found the graveyard of small tiny dinosaurs in this area, it will be a graveyard of Avimimus or Mononykus.

Djadokhta formation is located in the middle of Umnugobi Province and it covers more that 410 km wide and 200 km long territory. It dates back to Late Cretaceous Period, which is about 75-71 million years. It preserves many different landcapes such as an arid habitat of sand dunes, little freshwater or oasis, arroyos, cliffs, Gobi saxaul - haloxulon forest, red sandy hills, green valleys and so on...

The Djadokhta formation includes several localities, which is very rich with dinosaur fossils and ancient mammals and animals fossils: Bayanzag Flaming Cliff, Togrogiin Shiree yellowish hill, Ukhaa Tolgod Red Hill, Alag Teeg Red and Purple hill, and Baruun Goyot reddish valley.

Bayanzag flaming cliff, which is the red sandy soil cliff, is the one of well known cemetery of dinosaurs. It was discovered in 1922 by American Central Asiatic Expedition with leader of Mr.Roy Chapmen Andrews. The roughly 75-million-year-old fossil beds apparently hold thousands of bones over an area of at least 400 acres. It keeps both of the skeletons and eggs, that belonged to 5 kinds of dinosaurs: Protoceratops, Pinacosaurus, Velociraoptor and Oviraptor. These dinosaurs are very different in their shapes and sizes: one is a roughly cow-sized, flesh-eating horned dinosaur, and another one is 5 m tall, plant-eating, bird-looking flying dinosaur and so on..  The most fossils are of Protoceratops, so we call this area as a graveyard of Protoceratops and it’s babies and even eggs in their nests. The Ukhaa Tolgod Red hill is the graveyard of more ornithiscian dinosaurs, which means half dinosaur and half birdy: Byronosaurus, Citipati, Gobipteryx, Gobivenator, Khaan, Oviraptor, Saurornothoids, Shuvuuia, Velociraptor and so on.. All these ornithiscian dinosaurs had both of strong legs and strong big wings. The Bayanzag flaming cliff and Ukhaa Tolgod red Hills can be considered as one of the largest dinosaur graveyards. 

There is a the theory that an asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs. The Fallen asteroid in the ocean made a big hurricane or monster floods. The scientists think that within minutes, earthquakes and sea surges swept sea creatures inland, burying and preserving their bodies in sediment. Because the way the fossils are linked together in the same layers of earth within these bonebeds suggests all these centrosaurs were wiped out simultaneously. The flat area would have provided no high ground for escape, leading to thousands of animals drowning in the rising waters. A fossil site has captured the moments just after the asteroid thought to have wiped out the dinosaurs collided with Earth, palaeontologists have claimed. That is why the dinosaurs may have been part of a mass die-off resulting from a monster flood, comparable to today's hurricanes.

Nemegt Formation is located in Umnugobi and Bayankhongor Provunces. It dates the late Cretaceous period (73-65 million years ago). The Formation covers a big area of 300 km long and 150 km wide area with different landscapes: green valleys, stone valleys, oasis, red sandy soil canyons, yellow and white sand cliffs, rocky low hills, ancient river bed areas and so on.. The formation consists of river channel sediments and contains fossils of fish, turtles, crocodilians and a diverse fauna of dinosaurs, including birds.

The Nemegt Formation is composed of mudstones and sandstones that were deposited by ancient lakes, streams, and flood plains. The Nemegt Formation has several well known localities, which are considered as graveyards of dinosaurs and ancient mammals. Fossilized trunks have been also found. These petrified wood, and the remains of Araucariaceae conifers indicate that the forests of the Nemegt were thickly wooded, with a high canopy formed by tall conifer trees. When examined, the rock facies of this formation suggest the presence of stream and river channels, mudflats, and shallow lakes. Sediments also indicate that there existed a rich habitat, offering diverse food in abundant amounts that could sustain massive Cretaceous dinosaurs. Nemegt formation keeps following picturesque and amazing localities with rich fossils: Nemegt canyon, Khermen tsav canyon, Nogoon Tsav cliff, Bugiin Tsav cliff, Zulganai oasis, Altan uul red hill and so on..  

Nemegt canyon is extraordinarily rich in fossils, such as those of duck-billed dinosaurs, horned dinosaurs including Triceratops, ankylosaurs, raptors related to Velociraptor, and tyrannosaurids such as Albertosaurus and Tyrannosaurus rex. The area was home to a remarkable diversity of other animals as well, including birds, pterosaurs, alligators, turtles, lizards and mammals — in fact, scientists recently found mammal tooth marks on dinosaur bones in Nemegt formation.

The Nemegt formation is keeping the mega-sized graveyards of 23 different types of theropods, 4 kinds of ornithiscian dinosaurs, 4 types of tyrannosaurs, 4 types of cerapods, 5 kinds of ankylosaurs, 3 types of sauropods, 1 type of pterosaurs, 2 types of crocodiles, 20 types of mammals. The largest and terrifying predatory was Tarbosaurs Baatar and it’s graveyeard is found here.

In 100 years of dinosaur research, more than 80 species of dinosaurs or 1/5 (one fifth) of the over 400 dinosaur species known to science, have been found in the Mongolian Gobi.. In 1922, Roy Chapman Andrews, representative of the American Museum of Natural History led the paleontological expedition into the Mongolian Gobi and they found the eggs, embroyos, fossils firstly in Bayanzag flaming cliff in south Gobi desert area.

Part 4. About traveling around graveyards of dinosaurs 

Blue Mongolia travel agency tour sale staff will offer you Gobi travels, which includes visits to graveyards of dinosaurs. Our most of Gobi tours include the excursions to different landscape areas of the Gobi desert: cliffs, canyons, rocky mountains with gorges, green valleys, oasises, sand dunes, steppes, red sandy hills, salt lake bottoms, saxaul tree forests and different colors of sandy ravines or muddy hill’s sides, which are considered as graveyards of ancient animals.     

If you are in short of time, just for 4-5 days in the Gobi desert, our managers will offer you a short tour with visits to highlights and touristy places. It includes excursion through Three Beauties of Gobi National park area, which includes Khongor Sand dunes, Bayanzag Flaming Cliff, Togrogiin Shiree muddy hillside, Gurvansaikhan Mountain and it’s Yolun gorge and Rock painting in Khavtsgait Mt. Bayanzag flaming cliff is the touristy place and tourists listen to dinosaur stories at here. Bayanzag is located 110km northwest from Dalanzadgad town Omnogobi province. Bayanzag means rich in saxaul plant, an endangered Central Asian tree 2 to 9 m high, whose roots are longest for protection. The nickname of Flaming Cliffs is dubbed by Roy Chapman Andrew due to the orange-red rock color during the sunset. Besides, this place is the place, which the first proved that dinosaurs laid eggs. Following world famous fossils were found from here:  Crowded infant dinosaurs and Oviraptorosaur (Egg stealing dinosaur) were laying over its eggs. The Bayanzag Flaming cliff is keeping the thousands of fossils still today and it is considered as a graveyard of dinosaurs, which gave lots of information about dinosaurs to modern people. Another graveyard of dinosaurs, which presents the famous fossil to paleontology science is Togrogiin Shiree muddy hillside. Whitish and yellowish escarpment called Tugrugiin Shiree is located 28km west of Bulgan soum, Omnogobi province. A Polish-Mongolian expedition in 1965 found the first known fossils of a set of two massive forelimbs with three gigantic claws on each arm.  Most famous discovery from Tugrugiin Shiree is  2 Fighting dinosaurs" (a fossil of a Protoceratops and a Velociraptor locked in combat) fossils which were found first time in the world in the 1970s by A Polish-Mongolian expedition. Now those fossils are kept at Mongolian Paleontological Institute Exhibition hall.

If you have enough time and traveling all around Gobi desert and to visit to most of graveyards of dinosaurs and to enjoy the wildlife of the Gobi desert, we will offer you the 15-21 days trips. This trips will include excursions and visits to most touristy places, highlights of the desert, interesting and important places to paleontological and geological sciences. These places are the Shar Tsav Yellow muddy plateau, Baishin Tsav grey muddy hills, Suihent site with petrified woods, Bayanzag Flaming Cliff, Algui Ulaan tsav, Tsagaan Suvarga Purple cliff, Togrogiin Shiree Site, Ukhaa Tolgod Hills, Nemegt Grey Canyon, Khermen tsav red canyon, Bugiin tsav, Nogoon tsav green cliff and Zulgania oasis and so on… It means you will travel on the soil layers in ancient time and discover the 3 main geological periods: 100-85 million years ago, 85-80 milliong years ago, 80-65 million years ago.

Shar tsav is situated 80km away in the northeast from Khanbogd soum The site was discovered on July 31, 1995 by Mongolian Japanese researchers and a joint expedition conducted active field research in 1996, revealing over 18000 footprints of dinosaurs. It is amazing and unbelievable collection of footprints of 8 species of dinosaurs. There is a Baishin tsav grey muddy hill, which is considered as a graveyards of giant vegetarian dinosaurs- Sauropods. The place is belongs to Bayan shiree geological formation period, so there you can see the trails and fossils of dinosaurs, who were living here 100-83 million years ago.  

Nemegt is located 400km away in the west  from Dalanzadgad town, Omnogobi province. The Nemegt Basin and its Nemegt Formation is the biggest cemetery of giant dinosaurs and interesting species of dinosaurs ever found: a plant-eating, pot-bellied, duck-billed giant slow-poke. A giant pterosaur has been discovered in the Nemegt Formation in the Gobi desert. The large, dragon-like creature, duck billed creature, bird shaped dinosaurs, would have lived and died 70-65 million years ago, and likely had a wingspan of 10 to 12 meters. Giant carnivorous Tarbosaur and its baby and Egg fossils, an embryo in egg is still kept in this gravelyard.

Our Blue Mongolia tour managers will recommend you the visit to Gobi desert and discover the prehistory time and it’s fauna fossils. We are sure that you and your children will be amazed with those places and the dinosaur museums displays.  

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