NEW FOSSILS AT THE MUSEO DEL HOMBRE DOMINICANO DISCOVERED IN FLOODED CAVES
Since 2011, expeditions jointly undertaken by the Museo del Hombre Dominicano (MHD), the Dominican Republic Speleological Society (DRSS), Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo (UASD), and City University of New York in New York have discovered a rich new patrimony of vertebrate fossils in flooded, inland underground caves in the provinces of La Altagracia and Puerto Plata.
This ongoing research initiative has been called “Project Antillothrix” after the species Antillothrix bernensis, the first extinct primate known from the Dominican Republic, which was discovered by Renato Rímoli in the 1970s. Several thousands of fossil specimens have been collected by the DRSS scuba diving team and deposited in MHD, including many groups of extinct mammals, birds and reptiles.
This still growing research collection is likely the largest repository of Hispaniolan fossil vertebrates outside the United States. Several publications have already appeared that focus on two of the more charismatic groups of mammals, the primates, a main area of interest for Drs. Rímoli (MHD & UASD) and Rosenberger (CUNY), the lead scientists of the program, and the bats, for which our collections are exceptionally rich. The scientific significance of this material can be appreciated by the scope of researchers now engaged in studying them.
We have teams collaborating with us to study sloths, birds, crocodiles, turtles and dolphins, involving scientists from several United States and European institutions. These discoveries are providing unprecedented documentation of the extinct natural history of the Dominican Republic, and they are pioneering a new dedicated fossil-finding model - subaquatic paleontology - that has never been applied before anywhere in the world.