Let’s get one thing straight right now: Transylvania has a dinosaur park. Dwarf dinosaurs. And giant flying reptiles.
Wait! Before rushing off to book a flight, check it out:
This area was an archipelago of islands 90 million years ago because continental collisions had not yet closed off the Tethys Sea (called Tethyshavet here):
Tethys was a tropical sea and also part of a vast current of warm water that encircled the globe–a major reason why Earth was as toasty as a greenhouse during the dinosaur age and the early age of mammals. (Carroll)
This may even have played a role in the evolution of cats, though I’m just speculating here. After ice appeared in Antarctica and elsewhere during the “icehouse-greenhouse” transition of the Eocene and Oligocene epochs, things remained warm in lands whose coasts were bathed in Tethys waters (at least until Eurasia, Arabia, India, and Africa started jammin’ and completely blocked the global circulation of tropical water).
Very old mammal lineages lived on in the European archipelago for a while, even after their relatives in chillier parts had died off. Among these were very early carnivorans, some of whom likely were distant ancestors of the first cats, which later appeared in this part of the world during the Miocene.
OK, now we’re on subject matter that must wait until at least two of my cat-evolution ebooks have been published and I’m still working on the final draft of book #1 about the domestic cat today.
Go to Transylvania and see the dinosaurs of Hateg!
Agustí, J. 2007. The biotic environments of the late Miocene hominids, in Handbook of Paleoanthropology. Vol. 2: Primate Evolution and Human Origins, Henke W. & Tattersall I. (eds), 979–1009. Springer, Berlin.
Agustí, J., and Antón, M. 2002. Mammoths, sabertooths, and hominids: 65 million years of mammalian evolution in Europe. New York and Chichester: Columbia University Press.
Carroll, R. L. 1988. Vertebrate paleontology and evolution. New York: W.H. Freeman and Company.
Francis, J. E., Marenssi, S., Levy, R., Hambrey, M., Thorn, V. T., Mohr, B., Brinkhuis, H., Warnaar, J., Zachos, J., Bohaty, S., and DeConto, R. 2009. From greenhouse to icehouse – the Eocene/Oligocene in Antarctica, in Developments in Earth and Environmental Sciences, Vol. 8, eds. Florindo, F., and Siegert, M., 311–372. Elsevier.
Hateg UNESCO Global Geopark (Romania). 2017. http://www.unesco.org/new/en/natural-sciences/environment/earth-sciences/unesco-global-geoparks/list-of-unesco-global-geoparks/romania/hateg/ Last accessed June 17, 2018.
Lyle, M., Barron, J., Bralower, T. J., Huber, M., Olivarez Lyle, A., Ravelo, A. C., Rea, D. K., and Wilson, P. A. 2008. Pacific Ocean and Cenozoic evolution of climate. Reviews of Geophysics. 46. RG2002.
Prothero, D. r. 2006. After the Dinosaurs: The Age of Mammals. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. Retrieved from https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=Qh82IW-HHWAC
Zachos, J., Pagani, M., Sloan, L., Thomas, E., and Billups, K. 2001. Trends, Rhythms, and Aberrations in Global Climate 65 Ma to Present. Science. 292:686-693.
Seriously, look at those flat rock formations: that’s all undisturbed sedimentary rocks that have accumulated over a vast amount of geologic time. Of course there are fossils in there! (Bonus points if you can spot the cirques; here’s more geological background.)
Here’s a bit more about the dinosaurs. To show how far out in the wilderness this geopark is, note the hope expressed that they won’t need much helicopter support:
For today’s geopark, believe it or not, we need to start out on Mars!
“Yardang” doesn’t sound like a typical scientific term (in English, anyway), and it isn’t. It’s Ugyur for the same type of rock formation on Earth, and it was first used by geologists to describe these desert features near Dunhaung in China.
Instead of telling you about Geopark Odsherred, let me show it to you, complete with narration that won’t make sense, if you don’t speak Danish, but which somehow seems to fit the flowing curves and intricacies of this land. (Their website is in Danish, but you can click the little flag icon for a translation.)
First, here is an overview that might make you wonder why they made it a park, as it looks like very pretty scenery you might drive through on vacation in many parts of the world:
Next, more Danish, but also well-done visual storytelling of the geological and human history of the Odsherred Peninsula, and its importance as a natural ice-age preserve. Also, there are adorably furry cows and lingering shots of food that will make your mouth water!
Finally, there is the sky, which is always stunningly beautiful in Nordic areas. You’ll recognize all the natural phenomena except possibly the noctilucent clouds, Just keep in mind that none of this is artificial special effects – it’s all just the light of summer in Denmark in 2016:
I am not sure if everything in this video is part of the San’in Kaigan Geopark, but it certainly conveys the general feel of the place.
Daisen last erupted in the Pleistocene, per the Global Volcanism Program.
I like it that UNESCO geoparks include the human aspects of places, too.
Featured image: Hashi Photo, CC BY 3.0 DE