Life in An Ancient Miocene Land - Abu Dhabi 8
Million Years Ago
Numerous channels, about 10 metres wide, formed the river system, itself
about one kilometre in width, that flowed across the Baynunah region
of Abu Dhabi. The water in the channels was deep, clear, sometimes fast
flowing and had probably originated in the western highlands of Arabia.
This habitat was ideal for the freshwater bivalve molluscs that lived
in the river and their larvae were distributed widely throughout the
system in the gills of the numerous catfish that shared the environment.
The channel banks, formed of sandy-gravels that had been deposited when
the river was in flood, perhaps during monsoonal rains, were home to
4 metre long crocodiles.
A gerbil had burrowed into the channel bank and it was having a very
disturbed night. That day a cat the size of a leopard had killed a horse,
and part of its carcass - one of its three-toed legs - was now being
noisily crunched by a group of hyaenas. Equally noisy were the hippos.
They were hungry and hesitant about leaving the river so as to get to
their grassy feeding area in a woodland. Here, a group of four-tusked
elephants had decided that the woodland was too good a feeding area
to pass by. Disturbed and anxious, the gerbil decided to make a run
for a quieter place but as it dashed away from the noisy feeding habits
of the larger mammals it was snatched, caught and crunched between the
strong jaws of a badger-like carnivore. Its skull lay shattered for
some days until, after having been cleaned by ants, it became scattered
into the river by the north-northeast wind and subsequently buried by
Later, much later, in fact 8 million years later, the gerbil's teeth
were excavated from sandstone by palaeontologists and given a new scientific
name. The gerbil became Abudhabia baynunensis , a Latin name
derived from the Baynunah region of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi were it
was found in 1992.