4 missions of prospecting and inventory of the paleontological heritage were carried out within the framework of the Geopark Project H2020. These missions were aimed at: searching for Palaeozoic fossil plants, Permian and Triassic vertebrate remains and visiting a site with footprints of dinosaurs.

The Zat Valley offers a huge and complete series of outcrops ranging from the Proterozoic (~2500 Ma), throughout the Mesozoic (~250 Ma) up to the Late Tertiary (~4 Ma). They offer a large area to prospect for traces of ancient life and reconstruction of the history of the biosphere, in this part of the world. Besides, these outcrops great potential for paleontological discoveries since they share a common geological history with neighboring geologic formations of the High Atlas mountainsparticularely with the famous Jurassic dinosaurs-beds of the Central High Atlas (Azilal and Wazzant basins) and the Permo-Triassic out crops of the Western High Atlas (Argana Basin). The Zat Valley still understudied and up to now the only known fossils in this region are those of Stephanian plantes (~310 million years old). More than 18 species were described in the 1980’s in this valley.

Field works had been led in the Zat Valley within the framework of the Geopark Project H2020, three in November 2016 and one in September 2018. The aims were prospecting and inventory of the paleontological heritage.

Main results

  • Tens of Stephanian plants, including new forms, have been collected from two sites;
  • More than a dozen localities with remains of tetrapods have been highlighted in the Argana Basin. Around 50 remains of fossil vertebrates were. Preliminary examination of some of these remains suggests the first occurrence of vertebrates up to now unknown in Morocco, procolophonides and gorgonopsiens. If confirmed, it will be the first mention of these faunas in the Permian of North Africa.
  • Already known locality with Jurassic dinosaur footprints has been visited.
  • The discovery of nicely preserved and abundant track ways of Permian vertebrates.

These new discovries add significantly in our knowledge of the geological history, paleobiodiversity and paleoenvironments of the Zat Valley. All the collected specimens are deposited in the Museum of Natural History of Marrakech (MNHM, UCA).

JALIL Nour-Eddine

MNHN, Paris, France