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© Alliance française de Karachi


French Paleontological Mission in Pakistan

Created in 1995 under the name ‘Mission Paleontologique Française au Balouchistan’ by Jean-Loup Welcomme, the MPFP aims to promote geology and paleontology in Pakistan and neighboring countries through scientific research in collaboration with Pakistani scholars, training for Pakistani students, popularizing Earth Sciences and to advertise the paleontological resources with appropriate institutions of Pakistan. The MPFP also wishes to build an international research network for updating recent progress achieved in the deep history of biodiversity and environments of Pakistan.

Our approach is mostly based on fieldwork through interdisciplinary methods in collecting data for addressing various issues (paleontological, paleoenvironmental, tectonic) related to the specific geodynamic and paleogeographic context of what is now Pakistan (lithospheric convergence and collision of the Island-continent with various tectonic units of the northern margin of the Neotethys) during the Cenozoic (-65 millions years to recent). The MPFB’s current programs and collaboration include the University of Sind, Jamshoro, and the Pakistan Museum of Natural History, Islamabad.

The efforts of the MPFP have concentrated on 2 main regions where sedimentary sequences document 2 critical time slices in the history of the Indo-Pakistan Continent and its marine and terrestrial ecosystems:

The Bugti Hills, Balochistan (1994-2004)

The ‘Bugti bones beds’ have been known since the mid-XIXth Century when the British naturalist N. Vickary first reported fossil vertebrates from the Dera Bugti District, an arid area (Fig 1) situated on the southern fringe of the Sulaiman Range (Sulaiman Lobe). Ten years of paleontological survey in a controlled stratigraphic framework have led to document the evolution of terrestrial fauna/flora in the area throughout the last 30 million years, and to trace back the early history of the Indus drainage in the context of the rise (and subsequent erosion) of proto-Himalayan Mountains as a consequence of the collision of Indo-Pakistan continent with Tibet and other previously accreted terranes.

  • Fig. 1 Typical landscape of the Bugti Hills showing the brownish-yellowish Oligo-Miocene terrestrial clastics in the foreground, and the uplifted Dome of Eocene marine limestone and shale in the background. View to the North (Photo MPFB)

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Some Publications

Welcomme, J.-L., Ginsburg, L., 1997. Mise en évidence de l’Oligocène sur le territoire des Bugti (Balouchistan, Pakistan). C. R. Acad. Sci. Paris, serie IIa 325, 999-1004.

Welcomme, J.-L., Benammi, M., Crochet, J.-Y., Marivaux, L., Métais, G., Antoine, P.-O., Baloch, I.S., 2001. Himalayan Forelands: palaeontological evidence for Oligocene detrital deposits in the Bugti Hills (Balochistan, Pakistan). Geol. Mag. 138, 397-405.

Marivaux, L., Welcomme, J.-L., Antoine, P.-O., Métais, G., Baloch, I.M., Benammi, M., Chaimanee, Y., Ducrocq, S., Jaeger, J.-J., 2001. A fossil Lemur from the Oligocene of Pakistan. Science 294, 587-591.

Antoine, P.-O., Shah, S.M.I., Cheema, I.U., Crochet, J.-Y., De Franceschi, D., Marivaux, L., Métais, G., Welcomme, J.-L., 2004. New remains of the baluchithere Paraceratherium bugtiense (Pilgrim, 1910) from the late/latest Oligocene of the Bugti Hills, Balochistan, Pakistan. Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 24, 71-77.

De Franceschi, D., Hoorn, C., Antoine, P.-O., Cheema, I.U., Flynn, L.J., Lindsay, E.H., Marivaux, L., Métais, G., Rajpar, A.R., Welcomme, J.-L., 2008. Floral Data from the Mid-Cenozoic of central Pakistan. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology 150, 115-129.

Métais, G., Antoine, P.-O., Baqri, S.R.H., Crochet, J.-Y., De Franceschi, D., Marivaux, L., Welcomme, J.-L., 2009. Lithofacies, Depositional Environments, Regional Biostratigraphy and Age of the Chitarwata Formation in the Bugti Hills, Balochistan, Pakistan. Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 34, 154-167.

The Karachi Arc and Kirthar Range, Sindh (2008- )

This area has, to date, received relatively little attention from paleontologists, although the Paleogene marine and terrestrial sedimentary sequences are widely exposed there (Fig 2). The target here are the coastal to shallow marine deposits of the early Paleogene Ranikot Group, which document key intervals for which no fossil data is currently available in the entire Sub-continent. More generally, the early Paleogene interval (-65 to -45 millions years ago) is crucial since it corresponds to the diversification and dispersals of several groups of modern mammals, and it also coincides with significant global paleoenvironmental perturbations that impacted both terrestrial and marine ecosystems. Geological and paleontological surveys carried out in the past couple of years has led to the collect of numerous samples that are currently under study at the MNHN, Paris, and at UOS, Jamshoro.

  • Fig. 2 The Western flank of the north-south trending Ranikot Anticline with, from right to left, the Late Cretaceous Pab Formation, the coastal plain deposits of the Ranikot Group, and the cliff formed by Eocene marine limestones; the soft hills in the center of the photographs are made of Paleocene sediments. View to the North (Photo by G. Métais)

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Charbonnier, S., Garassino, A., Pasini, G., Métais, G., Merle, D., Bartolini, A., Brohi, I.A., Solangi, S., Lashari, R.A., Welcomme, J.-L., Marivaux, L., 2013. Early Paleogene decapod crustaceans from the Sulaiman and Kirthar Ranges, Pakistan. Annales de Paléontologie 99, 101-117.

Rage, J.-C., Métais, G., Bartolini, A., Brohi, I.A., Lashari, R.A., Marivaux, L., Merle, D., Solangi, S.H., 2014. First report of the giant snake Gigantophis (Madtsoiidae) from the Paleocene of Pakistan: Paleobiogeographic implications. Geobios 47, 147-153.

Merle, D., Pacaud, J.-M., Métais, G., Bartolini, A., lashari, R.A., Brohi, I.A., Solangi, S., Marivaux, L., Welcomme, J.-L., 2014. Volutidae (Mollusca: Gastropoda) of the Lakhra Formation (Earliest Eocene, Sindh, Pakistan): systematics, biostratigraphy and paleobiogeography. Zootaxa 3826, 101-138.