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Fossils, Bones and humans: A peep into the Quaternary of Peninsular India

Prof. Vijay Sathe (vertebrate palaeontologist at Deccan College, Pune) 

Location : LHC
Abstract:The subject of Palaeontology is beholden to the creative genius of Michael Crichton and Steven Spielberg to have awakened the common man’s interest in the animals of bygone era. A series of research -based Hollywood movies like Jurassic Park I, II, III, The Lost World, are some of the best examples of brilliant marriage between science and fiction. The other Walt Disney movies like Ice Age, Antz, Finding Nemo, Lion King to name a few, have sensitised to the world of animals both modern and prehistoric and phenomenally generated our awareness about natural heritage. The initiatives like creation of Fossil Parks, fossil trails and Fossil Days are praiseworthy initiatives of Geo-tourism. India is no exception to that as there are about thirty National Fossil Parks showcasing the relics of the ancient plants, trees, marine invertebrates, dinosaurs and large mammalian fauna preserved in situ and looked after under the guardianship of Geological Survey of India, Kolkata. There are more than 550 wildlife sanctuaries under the aegis of the Ministry of Forests and Wildlife of India which are not only the surviving living abodes of the Indian wild fauna but also a priceless forest refuge and the backbone of environmental balance. The Nature Trails like popular endeavours have also done a great service to the discipline by igniting young minds to venture into ‘not so popular’ field of studies to pursue their career. Finally, Natural History finds a centre stage in all interactive stages of human activity whose relevance, importance and role in survival of human species permeates through a long history of fossil record. Its subject transgressive nature renders the science of palaeontology the most fascinating subject of study. Reviewing India’s faunal history in the context of the Quaternary entails an interesting story of prehistoric wildlife whose relics have been reported from hundreds of fossiliferous localities archived in several river basins in the length and breadth of the subcontinent. Several sites have also been reported in association with stone tools, providing better understanding of the dynamics of man and animal relationship in prehistory. Over the last two hundred years the fossil map of India is studded with hundreds of fossiliferous localities. The relationships of ancient fauna with their supposed modern descendants, arrival, migration, extinction, evolution and adaptations are becoming clearer by the 21st century in spite of inherent incompleteness and inadequacy of the fossil record.

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