What Secrets are Barkhans Hiding From Paleontologists

Скелет сайгака. Фото ФГБУ "Государственный заповедник "Чёрные земли"

The sands of the barkhans in the North-Western Caspian Sea are hiding traces of human activity of past eras and the remains of animals that once lived in these places. The work of the wind helps paleontologists – when the sandy mass recedes, history is exposed. What is revealed makes you think about the fragility of the existing ecosystem and life in general.

Skeletons of dead animals and birds accumulate in the deflation basins. When the sands are moved by the wind, they return to the surface of the earth. Sometimes aeolian processes allow scientists to make amazing discoveries.


Часть бивня мамонта. Фото ФГБУ "Государственный заповедник "Чёрные земли"

For example, a few years ago, a tusk fragment of a steppe mammoth, which lived in these places about 300 thousand years ago, was found on the territory of the “Chernye Zemli” Nature Reserve. Thanks to such finds, it was possible to establish that from the end of the Pleistocene to the Middle Holocene (10th-8th centuries BC), the right bank of the Volga was inhabited by now extinct species of rodents: the yellow steppe lemming and great gerbil. After their disappearance, the leading role in the ecosystem passed to the midday and tamarisk gerbils. A little later, the little ground squirrel , the mole vole and the great jerboa joined them. Apparently, the rodent fauna acquired its final modern appearance by the 13th-14th centuries.


Обломки керамики и кости ушастого ежа, слепушонки, большого тушканчика. Фото ФГБУ "Государственный заповедник "Чёрные земли"

Changes in the fauna at that distant time, of course, were associated with a decrease in the level of the Caspian Sea and a general increase in climate aridity. However, scientists note that even then humans began to influence the environment – the nature of the Caspian region was seriously changing under the influence of the activities of nomadic pastoralists.