The Egg Romance

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How the dinosaurs waited 50 million years for MU Ramkumar

FOR OVER a year, MU Ramkumar, an assistant professor in the geology department at Salem’s Periyar University, would visit the Cauvery River basin area in Tamil Nadu’s Ariyalur district every weekend with his co-investigator K Anbarasu. They were exploring the region as part of a UGC study to understand the environmental changes that took place on the earth about 55 to 65 million years ago. A born adventurer, the 41-yearold scientist would always cover the distance of about 175 km from Salem to the project site on his bike, with Anbarasu riding pillion.

“We would leave on Saturdays at 4.30 am and reach the site in about four and half hours. We would return home on Sundays around midnight,” says Ramkumar, who had earlier worked at the Kharagpur and Mumbai IITs. However, Ramkumar’s moment of glory came in the second week of August this year when he stumbled on a finding that would hit media headlines the world over less than a month later.

“We were talking to some young cattle grazers about the rocks in the area when we were told about strange looking spherical objects at a nearby stream. We went there to take a look and were astonished to find that they were fossilised dinosaur eggs,” says Ramkumar, excitedly.

‘This may well emerge as India’s largest dinosaur nesting site,’ says Ramkumar

Each cluster had eight eggs and they were about 30 cms apart from each other across a distance of 800 metres. The eggs were in three sizes – 13 cm, 18 cm and 22 cm diametre. Ramkumar found there were several clusters buried under the earth. “There must be thousands of eggs in that site. It may well emerge as the largest dinosaur nesting site in the country,” he says. The other dinosaur sites in India are in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh and another one on the Rajasthan–Gujarat border.

“The world’s largest dinosaur nesting site is in Patagonia in Argentina, spread over an area of about 6000 sq km. But the clusters there are spread out from each other by a kilometre or so, unlike in Ariyalur where they are as close as 30-40 cms from each other,” he says. Ramkumar took his students to the site on September 12 and announced the finding to the media on October 1.

The scientist is modest about his finding. “The locals had been conserving the site in a way, without knowing they were protecting dinosaur eggs,” he says. A young local boy had told him that according to local belief, evil forces would haunt anyone who destroyed the spherical objects. “We have only identified the objects,” he says.

Two days after he spoke to the media about his finding, a group of students from a local college visited the fossil site and took away a few eggs. Police are now guarding the site and the area is being fenced. “The site could be developed as a tourist spot,” says Ramkumar.

PC VINOJ KUMAR

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