In Madagascar, they found the remains of a “crazy beast” with unique teeth. The enigma of ancient fossils was solved by the efforts of paleontologists from the Denver Museum of Nature and the University of Louisville. The results of their research are published in the journal Nature.
A few years ago, David Krause, curator of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, turned to Guillermo Rougier, a professor in the Department of Anatomical Sciences and Neurobiology at the University of Louisville. Krause asked a colleague for help in identifying the animal fossil that he discovered during an expedition to Madagascar.
“When Dr. Krause showed me a fully preserved fossil and asked for my opinion, I replied that I had never seen anything like it,” recalls the Shotgun. “This mammal had teeth that simply have no analogs.”
Krause and a group of paleontologists discovered a fossil during an expedition to Madagascar and spent more than 10 years working to determine the place of this animal in the long history of the evolution of mammals, and also with the help of these remains to study changes in the world fauna over time.
The gun, a paleontologist specializing specifically in the study of skulls and teeth of ancient mammals, was intrigued and joined an international team of researchers for a thorough analysis of the fossil.
The fossil has been preserved amazingly completely, which happens very rarely with ancient mammals that lived in the same era as dinosaurs. The gun writes that the creature looked like a beaver or a small capybara.
“First, it’s amazing how intact this beast is,” said the Shotgun. – Secondly, this fossil has been preserved in three dimensions. It often happens that the animal dies and remains in the rocks, while the weight of the stones at the same time flattenes it like a skating rink. You will have a full skeleton, but a sheet of paper thick. But this beast has been fully preserved, which gives us many details”.
The research team called the creature Adalatherium, which literally translates from Malagasy and Greek as “crazy beast,” reflecting its bizarre characteristics.
They placed the found mammal among the gondwanatherians, a little-known group of mammals found in various places in the Southern Hemisphere. The gun used the teeth and skull of the animal to figure out how to connect it with other mammals that lived at the same time and after it.
“The teeth in mammals reflect their origin, diet, and environment. In the case of Adalatherium, the morphology is so peculiar that it’s difficult to use the symbols that we usually use to establish family relationships, said Rouge. – The systematics and evolution of mammals is largely dependent on the morphology of the teeth, so when there are no teeth or they are so strange that you don’t know what to do with them (for example, in the case of anteaters, whales, armadillos, and lizards), problems begin “.
Adalatherium is the “product” of the isolation time when Madagascar was an island separated from India and moved towards Africa but before the advent of African influence. Thus, it was a natural “experiment,” an example of what is called island biogeography or island evolution, explained the Gun.
And Krause added that Adalatherium is just one, but important part, in a very large puzzle about the early evolution of mammals in the Southern Hemisphere.