National Geographic : 1963 Jan
National Geographic, January, 1963 of the Serengeti Plain, a vast and lonely area roamed by huge numbers of big game and by tribes of herdsmen and hunters. In comparison to Olduvai and the Se rengeti, Fort Ternan is almost resort country. It lies in the lowlands east of Lake Victoria, an area well watered by rains and mantled with grass and brush. It is ideal farming country, and such men as Fred Wicker were quick to see the possi bilities for grain crops, coffee plantations, and citrus groves. Farming and wild game, how ever, rarely go well together, and most of the larger animals have already disappeared from Fort Ternan. The smaller animals have hung on-two types of antelope, for example, the duiker and the oribi. In fact, one of the four duikers which we now have as family pets came from Fred Wicker's farm. In addition to the small animals, Fort Ter- nan has delightful bird life and not-so-delight ful snakes. To my son Jonathan the preva lence of snakes is a decided attraction, for he is a herpetologist. He has established a snake farm not far from Fort Ternan. The only resemblance between Fort Ternan and Olduvai Gorge, then, is in richness of fossil remains. In the two months we worked at Fort Ternan in 1961, we found no less than 1,200 fossils-creatures that are, for the most part, new to science. Tiny Giraffe Once Roamed Fort Ternan For example, we found the major part of a tiny prehistoric giraffe about the size of a calf. Fossil giraffes of about this epoch have been found in Europe and Asia, in such places as Samos, Greece, and in India. But the Fort Ternan giraffe is unlike any of these. One kind of fossil European and Asian giraffe was the ancestor of a now extinct group of ant lered giraffes whose remains we have found at Olduvai; these were short-legged, thick set creatures with antlers somewhat like those of the American moose. The Fort Ternan giraffe, on the other hand, closely resembles the modern giraffe in its proportions and anatomy, and it may repre sent a direct ancestor of the modern species. At Fort Ternan, also, we have discovered a new type of mastodon. In the Miocene depos its at Rusinga Island-the site where Mary discovered Proconsul-we earlier found a miniature fossil mastodon which lived some 25 million years ago. In America, much larg er mastodons survived until very recently, perhaps only a few thousand years ago. The Fort Ternan find stands midway in Smooth brow of Proconsul africanus foreshadows man, Dr. Leakey believes. Canine teeth are smaller than those of most apes, but larger than man's. Scientific name de rives from Consul, a tame chimpanzee once nicknamed the "almost human ape." As if about to squirm, fossils of beetle pupa and caterpillar display every wrinkle of bodies that died 25 million years ago. Most fossils preserve only bones and teeth, but here stone has replaced soft tissue.