The discovery of pre-historic fossils in Thailand

Traces of pre-historic life preserved in the earth's crust in the form of fossilised bones and shells provide a fascinating record of how ancient plants and animals lived and what they looked like. Even though they are but a vague record of the many different species which once inhabited this earth, these fossilised forms can tell us the history of pre-historic plants and animals.
Red bed, know as Korat Group
Fossils, or pre-historic relics, are the mortal remains of plant and animal life preserved by nature beneath the crust of the earth. Scientists have discovered that for every million dinosaur that once roamed the earth, the fossilised remains of only one can still be found. Fossils are most commonly found in the vicinity of rivers coastal areas and lakes. Sometimes they are found in deserts or in roucky hollows.
Red bed, know as korat group, formaed through and accumulation of sediment on theearth's surface during the Great Mesozoic Age, the time period when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Dinosaur fossils are found mixed among the layers of rock.

Fossilised forms of plant and animal life have been discovered in many different places in Thailand, particularyly in the northeastern art of the country, known as the Korat Plateau, as well as in some parts of the northern and southern regions. Most of the animal fossils found are of dinosaurs, a reptile-like animal that lived 225 million years ago during the Mesozoic Age. It is generally believed that the dinosaur was a large, monstrous animal. The truth is that dinosaurs came in a variety of shapes and sizes, the larges being more than 100 feet tall and weighting more than 100 tons while that smallest was no bigger than a chicken. Some walked on four legs and others walked on their two hind legs. While some lived on a diet of only plants and vegetation, others were carnivorous.

Herd of Saurpod dinosaurs.
Herd of Sauropod dinosaurs.

Dinosaurs first appeared about 225 million years ago during the Triassic age and disappeared from the earth duing the Cretaceous Age around 65 million years age. Humans, however, first appeared on earth only 5 million years ago, 60 million years after the dinosaur became extinct. The word "Dinosaur" comes from the Greek words "Deinos", meaning terribly frightening, and "Sauros" which means a reptile or reptilian. The name dinosaur was given by Professor Richard Owen, a reputed English scholar, in 1841.
Fossils of the sauropod dinosaur found during excavation in Site1

Fossils of the Sauropod dinosaur found during excavations in Site 1, Phu Wiang in 1987. These Holotype bones represent a new genus of the Sauropod dinosaur species.

The first discovery of dinosaur fossils in Thailand was made in 1976 by Mr. Sutham Yaemniyom while conducting uranium surveys in Phu Wiang District, Khon Kaen Province. At that time he unearthed a large bone of the Sauropod dinosaur which is a four legged, long-necked, long-tailed species. Shortly afterwards, the Northeastern Geological Survey Team discovered dinosaur and crocodile fossils in serveral different places such as the Chulabhon Dam in Chaiyaphum Province and in Nong Bua Lampho District, Udon Thani Province where they found giant cocodile molars aged about 190 million years. Thsi later became known as Sunosuchus Thailandicus (Buffetaut and Ingavat, 1984). In addition to a large number of dinosaur bones encrusted in layers of rock in Phu Wiang District, discoveries have also been made of fossilised fish, tortoise shells and crocodiles.

Priceless fossils collected for scientific research. After excavation, fossils are placed in a plaster casts to prevent breakage during transportation to the laboratory.

Lower molars of the Psittacosaurus sattayaraki found in Chaiyaphum Province.

Prior to conducting scientific research, the bones are removed from the cast of cleansing and removal of soil, stones and sand. They are then repaired and treated with special chemicals for preservation.

Beaked Psittacosaurus dinosaur.

The oldest dinosaur fossils found in Thailand come from the fused distal ends of the ischia of a fairly large and robust Prosauropod dinosaur and were found in Nam Phong Formation near the eastern entrance to Nam Nao National Park, Petchabun Province in 1992 by Mr. Nares Sattayarak of the Department of Mineral Resources. They are the oldest dinosaur bones found in Southeast Asia and it is the first time that fossils of the Prosauropod dinosaur have been found in this region.

Segment of ischia bone from a Prosauropod dinosaur

Segment of ischia bone from a Prosauropod dinosaur found in rocks of the late-Triassic Age in Petchabun Province. It is the earliest evidence of dinosaurs in Southeast Asia. The Prosauropod, Which measured up to 8 metres, was a large herbivorous dinosaur.
Most dinosaur fossils are found in the Phu Wiang Ranges in Khon Kaen Province. At present there are no less than 6 excavation sites in this area nd it is the first Dinosaur Park in Sputheast Asia. Following the discovery of the first finosaur fossils at Phu Wiang, the first Thai species, the Theropod, was discovered at Phu Pratu Teema, in the Phu Wiang area. Experts have identified this as a new family and a new species and have given it the name Siamosaurus suteethorni, (Buffetaut and Ingavat. 1986).

The most perfect specimen of the new Sauropod dinosaur species found in Thailand was discovered in the vicinity of Phu Wiang. This dicovery also marked the first time that a large quantity of fossils from one dinosaur had been unearthed in Thailand. Fossillised bones from a large, old dinosaur have been discovered in the vicinity of Non Sao Eh, Nong Khong Village, Phu Wiang District. Such discoveries are not common and offer a great deal of important scientific data. lepidotes scales and tortoise shells have also been discoved. The Thai-french Dinosaur Survey recently completed their studies and submitted their findings in November, 1994.

Lower molars of the Sunosuchus thailandicus crocodile, measuring slightly over 1 metre, discovered in rocks of the jurassic period (160 million years ago) at Nong Bua Lamphu Pre-rustoric crocodile

Their discovies included the most perfect Sauropod dinosaur fossils ever found in Thailand. as this discovery represented a new species, the Survey Team approached Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn and requested permission to name this species after Her Royal Highness in honour of the support which Her Royal Highness has given to the research of ancient microbiology in Thailand. Accordingly, this species of dinosaur was given the name Phuwiangosaursu sirindhornae, Martin, Buffetaut and Suteethorn, 1994.

Short, sharp truncated teeth of the Siamosaurus suteethorni (Buffetaut and Ingavat, 1986) species, which differ from tecth of the Theropod dinosaur, have been discoverd in many sites in rocks of the early Cretaceous period.

Siamosaurus suteethorni, Buffetaut and Ingavat, 1986

Fossils of carnivorous dinosaurs of the giant Tyrannosauridy have also been found in different parts of the northeastern region. For example, extremely ancient bone fossils of the Tyrannosaurus dinosaur have been discovered in the vicinity of Sao Khua Formation. The Thai-French Dinosaur Survey have identified this as a new family of dinosaurs in Thailand and have given it the name Siamotyrannus isanensisgen. et. sp. nov. Buffetaut, Suteehorn et. Tong, 1996. It havs been surmised that the Tyrannosaurids began to evolve in Asia. Dinosaur fossils have also been discovered at Phu Pha Ngo, Kuchinarai District, Kalasin Province and at Phu Kum Khao, Wat Sakkawan, Sahatsakhan district, Kalasin Province where most discoveries of dinosaur fossils in Thailand have been made. These discoveries also represent the most perfect skeletal structure discovered in Thailand to dated. Her Royal Highness Princess maha Chakri Sirindhorn paid and official visit to the excavation site at Phu Kum Khao, Wat Sakkawan on 24 November, 1995.

Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn made an official visit to dinosaur excavation site at Wat Sakkawan, Sahatsakhan District, Kalasin Province on 24 November, 1995

Even though fossils of vertebrates represent only on species of animal, They are of major scientific significance and are an irreplaceable source of geological evidence for establishing the layers of rocks.