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Japanese, RP Scientists in Study of Ammonite Fossils - CT

A team of Japanese and Philippine scientists trekked to the Silungan ng Higante rock outcrop in Dugui Wala, Virac last Monday to check out fossils of marine creatures that lived at least 100 million years ago when the country was still underwater.

The seven-man team, which is working under the auspices of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), paid a courtesy call on Virac Mayor Santos V. Zafe last Friday morning (March 12) before embarking on a reconnaissance ride to the Dugui Too area. Mayor Zafe is lending the team a dump truck and a driver to enable them to reach the jump-off point to the site earlier.

The MGB team is composed of Supervising Science Research Specialist Dr. Yolanda Aguilar, Geologic Aide Wenceslao Mago and driver Emolyn Azurin while the Philippine National Museum is represented by Roberto de Ocampo, chief of the Geology Division and museum curator Priscila Ong. They were joined by Dr. Tomoki Kase, curator-in-chief of the National Museum for Nature and Science (NMNS) based in Tokyo, Japan, and Dr. Yasunari Shigeta.

The team will collect fossils in two sites in Catanduanes – the Silungan site in Dugui, which is considered to be at least 100 million years old (late Cretaceous period), and the Comagaycay site in San Andres, which is at least 110 million years old (early Cretaceous). They will likewise proceed to other sites in the Bicol region, particularly Sorsogon province, all in connection with the joint research project of the MGB, PNM and NMNS on "Collection Building and Natural History Studies in the Philippines:Tracing the Origin of High Marine Biodiversity in the Indo-Pacific through Fossil Studies."

Armed with compasses, drill machines, picks, maps and other field equipment, the scientists and geologists would study the huge rock outcropping at Dugui where Virac municipal official Oseas Alberto found ammonites in 2008, including one as big as a car tire. His find, published in the Tribune website, drew the attention of the National Museum, which sent De Ocampo, Ong and Jerry Tabirao to the site in April 2009 for verification and further studies. Alberto’s posting of their video fieldwork on YouTube soon drew the attention of the Japanese scientists.

The MGB geologists will also join the Japanese scientists in looking at the Dugui rivers, especially the limited gold panning activity. De Ocampo said the bureau is undertaking preparations for the establishment of a Philippine Mining Museum.

"There is a possibility that we might find fossils of marine dinosaurs in Catanduanes," Dr. Kase told the Tribune, adding that marine mammals like Icthyosaurs and plesiosaurs roamed the seas during the Cretaceous period. Dr. Aguilar said the presence of ammonite fossils in Catanduanes is evidence that the Philippines was underwater when dinosaurs ruled land masses like Asia and America.

Source: Catanduanes Tribune - 17 March 2010

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