Published: September 2008


Sereno Desert


(Originally published in the December 2001 issue of National Geographic)

By Paul Sereno
National Geographic Grantee
Photograph by Mike Hettwer

We had never seen anything like it. With brushes and awls we teased away the rock encasing its fossilized jaws. They were huge, each about as long as an adult human. Yet the animal that had once wielded these jaws was not a dinosaur. It was a colossal crocodilian.

We had come to hunt dinosaur bones in the Sahara's legendary fossil graveyard, a remote windswept stretch of rock and dunes called Gadoufaoua. In Tamashek, the language of the desert's Tuareg people, Gadoufaoua means "the place where camels fear to tread." For fossil hunters it means paradise—the richest dinosaur beds on the African continent. Now less than an hour into our four-month expedition we were face-to-face with an ancient croc that could have posed a serious threat to any dinosaur within reach.

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