Looking for fossils: The hunt for answers
Finding fossils is a Herculean task, but this Hyderabadi is determined to do it to understand ancient life. Here’s his story
HYDERABAD: While we have enjoyed watching Jurassic Park and its sequels, it’s a known fact that the filmmakers relied heavily on palaeontology to understand how dinosaurs looked and behaved when they walked the Earth. This field consists of amateurs and professionals alike, who study ancient life forms.
One such fossil geek is 43-year-old Venkatesh Kandula from Miyapur — he has been hunting fossils in and around the Telangana region for decades now, all for the sake of providing invaluable evidence to researchers and hold exhibitions for the common man in a country where the field is almost neglected.
Venkatesh holds a private collection of over 70 fossils, some of which are rare and unique.
“Fossils are the proof of prehistoric times,” he says. His collection includes a 500-million-year-old Trilobite, a marine arthropod that went extinct even before dinosaurs appeared. He also has a 65-million-year-old Sauropod fossil, a monstrous 60-feet dinosaur from the erstwhile Gondwanaland — a supercontinent that existed 300 million years ago, which is present day Antarctica, South America, Africa, Madagascar and Australasia, as well as the Arabian Peninsula and the Indian subcontinent. He also has fossils of trees and plants that are nearly 100 million years old.
Unlike most organic material that start to decompose in a short period of time, fossils are formed when the environmental conditions are perfect to extend the decomposition period. In most cases, minerals replace the organic material, forming a rock-solid mineralised fossil, or leave an impression behind on the surrounding soil which that later hardens. This is also known as impression fossil. “One can find almost all kinds of fossils in Adilabad and the Pranhita-Godavari basin. In fact, one of the best dinosaur fossils ever discovered in the country is from these regions,” Venkatesh says.
Venkatesh was introduced to fossil collection by his grandfather, who used to be a member of the Andhra Historical Research Society. But it was his friends who shared their knowledge and helped him with fossil exploration. It is more than just a hobby for the electrical engineer, who moonlights as a fossil hunter.
Lamenting at the current state of palaeontology in the country, he says: “There is little to no research on fossils and neither are the people aware of its importance. It is horrific to see fossils getting crushed along with stones in quarries. There are no laws to conserve and regulate these natural treasures, and very few fossil sites in the country are protected.”