History of the Paleozoology Laboratory

There are many riches stored in the bowels of the Earth. Among them, there are some that are difficult to evaluate in the language of numbers. These are “living rocks” or fossils – the remains of plants and animals that inhabited the Earth many millions of years ago.

The animals and plants that inhabited Earth in past geological eras have changed continuously. These fossils help geologists find layers of the Earth’s crust containing, oil, coal and gold, tungsten and other minerals. Among the ancient plants and animals were also the ancestors of the Earth’s modern inhabitants. By studying their fossilized remains, scientists are restoring the history of animals and plants, providing authentic factual material for studying the history of fauna and flora, and helping to restore the Earth’s ancient landscapes and climates. Kazakhstan’s location in the center of Eurasia has caused a unique diversity of flora and fauna at different stages of its geological past.

The territory of Kazakhstan on the Eurasian continent is of particular interest for the comprehensive study of geo-ecological reconstructions of the past, in the depths of which the most unique skeletal remains of ancient animals and plant imprints began to be found and since the beginning of the 20th century has become a full-fledged scientific ground for a comprehensive study of the diversity of fauna of past eras. Discoveries in the early twentieth century of unique skeletons of ancient mammals in Torgai, in the Aral Sea region, in Betpak-Dala, Priirtyshye, Priishimye, have brought the world fame to Kazakhstan. These undeniable facts prompted Bazhanov to take the initiative to the Presidium of the Kazakh SSR Academy of Sciences to organize a laboratory of paleozoology in the walls of the academic Institute of Zoology.

Deeply appreciating the importance of paleontological research for geology of Kazakhstan, the president of the Academy of Sciences of the Kazakh SSR K. I. Satpayev supported the initiative of Bazhanov, and in 1946 he opened a paleozoological laboratory. V.S. Bazhanov headed the laboratory from 1946 to 1964. This is one of the oldest laboratories at the Institute. Practically starting from scratch, but with great support of academician K.I. Satpayev, colleagues from leading paleontological centers of the USSR and geologists of Kazakhstan, the laboratory of paleozoology since 1946 became one of the leading paleontological centers for all Trans-Ural Russia. With the name of V. S. Bazhanov is associated with the development of paleobiology in Kazakhstan in a broad aspect, from purely scientific to applied. The laboratory began to carry out full-scale and targeted searches for paleontological materials in the territory of the republic. The famous Torgai complex geological and paleontological expedition in 1948 gave great results and proved promising activity of the laboratory.

Since 1955 a group of paleobotanists led by V.S. Kornilova joined the laboratory, which initiated the research of paleobotanical direction (on fossil macroflora) in Kazakhstan. V.S. Bazhanov, V.S. Kornilova, M.D. Biryukov, V.V. Kuznetsov, L.I. Khozatsky, B.S. Kozhamkulova contributed greatly to the processing and study of materials of that period; E.R. Orlovskaya and E.V. Romanova laid the foundation for studying the Jurassic flora of Kazakhstan. Since 1955, under the direction of V.S. Bazhanov, the laboratory began to publish the works “Materials on the History of Fauna and Flora of Kazakhstan”.

It is necessary to note especially the merits of V.S.Bazhanov who, together with the well-known geologists N.N.Kostenko and V.V.V. Lavrov, who laid the foundations and principles of stratigraphy using the data of paleobiology. In 1955, with the formation of the Stratigraphic Committee and its regional subdivisions, the data of Laboratory were successfully used in the preparation of the first stratigraphic schemes of the Cenozoic of Kazakhstan. The theoretical studies of the Laboratory were included in many volumes of the series “Geology of the USSR”, “Stratigraphy of the USSR”. Employees of the Laboratory became active participants of various projects of the International Geological Correlation Programs (UNESCO IGCP).

From 1964 to 1986 the Laboratory was headed by B. S. Kozhamkulova. She is the author of more than 120 scientific works, including 4 books and more than 45 popular articles.

This was the period of purposeful in-depth basic research of separate taxonomic units of fossil animals: anthropogenic trunks, paleoichthyofauna, fossil cloven-footed and cloven-footed animals. Studies on paleofaunistics and paleofloristics of specific localities began. Dozens of new locations with remains of fossil fauna and flora in different regions of Kazakhstan were discovered. Scientific researches of the laboratory were carried out within the framework of the All-Union programs and scientific creative agreements (Russia, Georgia, Ukraine, Bashkiria, Yakutia, republics of the Central Asia). The laboratory was involved in the implementation of IGCP – project № 41 (1974-1984)

“Neogene/Quaternary boundary”; project No. 174 “Geological events at the Eocene – Oligocene boundary” (1982-1985). A great contribution to the monographic studies of this period in Kazakhstan was made by: B. S. Kozhamkulova (Anthropogenic fauna of Late Cenozoic ungulates of Kazakhstan), E. R. Orlovskaya (Jurassic flora of Karatau), N. M. Makulbekov (Eocene flora of Northern Kazakhstan), K. Zh. Zhylkibayev (Ancient elephants of Kazakhstan), G. F. Lychev (fossil beavers of Kazakhstan), E. V. Romanova and P. V. Shilin (Late Cretaceous floras of Kazakhstan), G. S. Rayushkina (Oligocene flora of Mugodzhar and Northern Priaralie), P. A. Tleuberdina (Late Cenozoic fauna of south-east Kazakhstan, Catalogue of Cenozoic mammals of Kazakhstan.), B. U. Baishashov (Neogene rhinoceroses of Kazakhstan). Volumes 5-10 of Materials on the History of Fauna and Flora of Kazakhstan were published.

Since 1986 and up to the present time the laboratory has been headed by P.A. Tleuberdina, the Neogene fauna specialist, the author of more than 140 scientific works, including 4 books. Systematization of the accumulated material helped the Laboratory to enter a new round of research. A distinctive feature of this period was the complex geological and paleontological expeditions to the reference sections of Mangyshlak, Priaralie, Torgay, Central Kazakhstan, Prizaisan’, Dzhungar Aktau, and intermountain depressions of Tien-Shan.

Investigations on UNESCO IGCP projects were continued: continuation of project No 174 (1987-1991) – Correlation of Marine and Continental Paleogene deposits of Kazakhstan; No 245 (1987-1991) – “Nemorskaya Chalk”; No 326 (1992-1996) “Transition from Oligocene to Miocene in the Northern Hemisphere”. On the latter project the Laboratory held the International Symposium in 1994 (August 16-28, 1994) with a field excursion to the world-known localities in the Northern Priaralie. Joint research within the framework of Interstate programs (PIN RAS, GIN RAS, Institute of Paleobiology, Tbilisi) was continued. Joint research on reference sections of Kazakhstan was actively continued with geologists of the IGN MES RK.

For almost half a century of paleozoological research in Kazakhstan, the laboratory team has accumulated and studied extensive and unique material on many groups of ancient vertebrates. The results of these studies attracted the attention of foreign scientists. During this period the laboratory actively entered the international arena.

And since 1993 through 1997 the Laboratory had a long-term scientific agreement on joint research of Cenozoic vertebrate fauna of East Kazakhstan with the leading paleontological centers of the USA: Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History (Washington), New Mexico (Albuquerque) and the American Museum of Natural History (New York). In addition, laboratory specialists (during 1993-1995) P.A. Tleuberdina, L.A. Tyutkova, B.U. Baishashov were invited to the paleontological centers of the USA (Washington, New York, Albuquerque) for joint processing and studying materials from the East Kazakhstan (Zaisan Depression, Dzungarian Aktau). The results of these studies have been published in various editions of the USA, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Georgia (more than 50 articles and abstracts). In 2000. P.A. Tleuberdina was invited by the Finnish Academy of Sciences to work on fossil equids at the Zoological Museum of the University of Helsinki.

Joint studies and publications of the laboratory with colleagues from Finland and the USA, as well as publications in publications of France, Slovakia, Russia Germany, Italy. This is also confirmed by the grants received by the laboratory specialists for different researches:

  1. П. A. Tleuberdina, B. S. Kozhamkulova, B. U. Baishashov, L.T. Abdrakhmanova, L.A. Tyutkova. 1993, 1994г. – Grant from the International Soros Foundation for Biodiversity.
  2. Л. A. Tyutkova, 1994. International Soros Foundation Travel Grant. Trip to the International Conference in Poland.
  3. Tyutkova, L.A. Bayshashov, B.U. – 1995 – International Soros Foundation Grant (MKY OO) – field research in Torgai.
  4. П. P. A. Tleuberdina – Program Director – Grants from the National Geographic Society, Smithsonian Institute (Washington, D.C., USA) for field work in East Kazakhstan (1994 – 1997).
  5. П. A. Tleuberdina (1993), L.A. Tyutkova (1995), B.U. Baishashov (1995) – Fellowships grant from Smithsonian Institution (USA, Washington)
  6. Tyutkova L.A. (1997) – Grant from Science Foundation of Kazakhstan (48 – 96F) – carrying out field works on the Ayagoz River, Semipalatinsk Oblast
  7. Tleuberdina P.A. Grant of the Finnish Academy of Sciences in 2000-2001 for joint scientific research on Neogene Equidae of Kazakhstan.
  8. Tleuberdina P.A., 1997 – State order from the Ministry of Geology and Subsoil Protection of RK together with IGN MN NAN RK – (supervisor)
  9. Tleuberdina P.A. 1998 – Financial support of Mr. I. Wurdeman (“Jurassic gallery”, Germany) for realization of field researches in Semipalatinsk Priirtyshie (Karabastuz).
  10. Tleuberdin P.A. – 20-2003. State order together with the IGN MES RK for research of reference sections of the Cenozoic of Kazakhstan.
  11. Malakhov D.V. Dapte Grant “Monitoring Amphibian Population and Causes of Decline in the Turan Area (Central Asia)”
  12. Malakhov D. V. Grant INTAS-2000 “Dissemination of data on environmental characteristics using the CD-ROM based data management system for the Atlantic Ocean and the enclosed seas”.
  13. Malakhov D.V. Grant INTAS- 2002 # 1018 “The present state of Aral Sea Ba-sin herpetofauna and implications for conservation of natural habitats and Biodiversity”.

Specialists of the laboratory of paleozoology are permanent participants of international forums. The geography of conferences, symposiums, congresses has a wide coverage of countries: Kazakhstan, Russia, Poland, USA, France, Finland, Germany, China, Italy, Japan.

International recognition is evidenced by the membership of specialists in international societies:

Tleuberdina since 1993 is a member of the CVP (International Paleontological Society of the USA).

Since 1974 P.A. Tleuberdina is a member of Kazakhstan Interregional Stratigraphic Commission (KazIRSC), since 1984 she is a member of ISC (Moscow) and SibRSC (Novosibirsk);

Tleuberdina is a member of the expert commission on paleozoology at the Committee of Geology of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources of Kazakhstan.

Baishashov is a member of CVP (International Paleontological Society of the USA) since 1995.

L. A. Tyutkova is a member of the KazRMSC of Kazakhstan.

Thanks to the research of Kazakhstani and Soviet scientists about 600 locations with remains of ancient animals have been discovered and 100 of them in the last 15 years. Thanks to the study of extracted scientific materials dozens of scientific discoveries have been made, which have brought world fame to many locations in Kazakhstan. To date, about a thousand species of fossil vertebrates and almost the same number of plants are known from the territory of Kazakhstan. However, this is far from complete information about the species diversity of fauna of past epochs accumulated to the present time and which are still largely hidden in the depths of the Kazakhstan earth.

The essence of the carried out researches of the laboratory is stated in 12 volumes of the thematic collection “Materials on history of fauna and flora of Kazakhstan”; 21 monographs and books are published. Numerous articles were published in various specialized editions of Kazakhstan, Russia, USA, France, Germany, etc. Information on the results of research of Kazakhstan paleozoologists were included in relevant volumes of “Geology of the USSR”, “Stratigraphy of the USSR”, “Zoogeography of the Paleogene of Asia”, various types of encyclopedias, etc. The results of studies of the Laboratory formed the basis of the stratigraphic schemes of Kazakhstan, approved by the Interregional Stratigraphic Committee of the USSR in 1962, 1978, and 1986.

Laboratory Publications

Thanks to the activities of paleontologists, a number of locations have been declared paleontological monuments of nature: “Goose Flight” in Pavlodar Priirtyshye; the “Aulie” protected area in the Karatau mountains as part of the Aksu-Jabagly Reserve; “Koshkurgan” near the city of Turkestan.

Recognition of merits and professionalism of laboratory specialists

P. A. Tleuberdina became a grantee of the State scientific grant for 2000-2002 for leading scientists who made outstanding contribution to the development of science and technology.

D. V. Malakhov became a grantee of the State scientific grant for 2000-2002 for talented young scientists who made an outstanding contribution to the development of science and technology.

P. A. Tleuberdina received a certificate of the J. Soros Foundation in 1999 – “Open Museum. Survival Strategy.”

P.A Tleuberdina is in the International directory “Who’s Who Professional and Busines Women” – 8th and 9th editions for 2002-2003 (ABI USA edition).

Employees of the Laboratory are successfully engaged in popularization of paleozoological science through mass media (TV, newspapers, popular editions) and the Museum of Nature.

At the Institute of Zoology from 1961 to 2006 officially, according to the Decree of the Presidium of the Kazakh SSR Academy of Sciences functioned Museum of Nature. The main objective of the Museum was to promote the achievements of the zoological science of Kazakhstan and the ideas of nature conservation. For more than 40 years the Museum was open for a wide range of visitors: schoolchildren, students, tourists from near and far abroad; numerous participants of various conferences and scientific forums and city residents. The museum held excursions; schoolchildren and students at the museum broadened their horizons on many aspects of biological science, in addition to their academic programs. The museum constantly promoted zoological knowledge through the media.

At the end of 2006 in connection with the repair of the building of the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Kazakhstan the museum curtailed its powers, and the unique exhibits were put into boxes. But scientists are looking forward with hope that these exhibits will still decorate the “National Museum of Natural History of Kazakhstan.