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Fossil tells the ‘tail’ of an historic beast

Fossil tells the ‘tail’ of an historic beast

2023-05-29 06:15:25

Fossil tells the 'tail' of an ancient beast
An illustration of Vintana, an historic groundhog-like mammal that lived in Madagascar through the time of the dinosaurs. Credit score: Gary Staab

Roughly 200 million years in the past, Antarctica was connected to South America, Africa, India, and Australia in a single “supercontinent” referred to as Gondwana. Paleontologists have lengthy questioned in regards to the distinctive mammals that lived solely on this historic supercontinent, together with a very elusive group referred to as Gondwanatheria, for which few fossils have been recognized.

Now, New York Institute of Expertise Affiliate Professor of Anatomy Simone Hoffmann, Ph.D., is a part of a group that’s serving to to “unearth” vital clues about these mysterious animals. In a Might 15 research printed within the journal Cretaceous Analysis, Hoffmann and Senior Curator on the Denver Museum of Nature and Science David Krause, Ph.D., describe the primary postcranial stays (skeletal stays aside from the cranium) of a gondwanatherian referred to as Vintana. Their findings present new insights into early mammalian evolution.

Vintana lived about 66 million years in the past in what’s now Madagascar, roaming the earth concurrently the dinosaurs. Its identify means “fortunate” within the Madagascar language of Malagasy, referring to the fossil’s lucky discovery. Bearing a resemblance to as we speak’s groundhogs, Vintana weighed round 19 kilos and is the biggest recognized mammal from the southern hemisphere’s Mesozoic period (252 to 66 million years in the past) to this point.

Beforehand, Vintana was solely represented by a fossilized cranium, which Hoffmann, Krause, and colleagues detailed in a 2014 study. A number of years later, in 2020, the researchers uncovered the almost full skeleton of an odd, possum-sized gondwanatherian, dubbed the “loopy beast” (Adalatherium). Till now, Adalatherium’s fossilized skeleton represented the one postcranial stays within the gondwanatherian fossil report.

Now, Hoffmann and Krause’s new research presents further gondwanatherian postcranial proof and divulges {that a} vertebra fossil from the Cretaceous of Madagascar was as soon as a Vintana tailbone.

Utilizing a micro-Computed Tomography (μCT) scanner, the researchers scanned the vertebra and in contrast the digital floor recordsdata to the tail vertebrae from Adalatherium. They discovered that the vertebra was similar to that of Adalatherium, the second largest Mesozoic mammal from Madagascar, however a lot bigger—almost 40 % bigger, to be actual. This dimension put it solidly throughout the vary to categorise it as Vintana.

“Whereas the stays symbolize solely an remoted vertebra from Vintana’s bigger skeleton, its discovery gives key details about the gondwanatherian lineage,” says Hoffmann. “Gondwanatherians had uniquely quick tail vertebrae and this new discovery tells us that the tail of Vintana was even wider and shorter than the already stubby tail of Adalatherium.”

Extra info:
David W. Krause et al, First postcranial stays of the Late Cretaceous gondwanatherian mammal Vintana sertichi, Cretaceous Analysis (2023). DOI: 10.1016/j.cretres.2023.105577

Fossil tells the ‘tail’ of an historic beast (2023, Might 24)
retrieved 29 Might 2023

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