Evolution

Researchers uncover fossil of recent species of pangolin in Europe — ScienceDaily


Deeper evaluation of fossils from certainly one of Jap Europe’s most important paleontological websites has led to the invention of a brand new species of pangolin, beforehand thought to have existed in Europe through the early Pleistocene however not confirmed till now.

“It is not a flowery fossil,” mentioned Claire Terhune, affiliate professor of anthropology on the College of Arkansas. “It is only a single bone, however it’s a new species of a form of a bizarre animal. We’re pleased with it as a result of the fossil file for pangolins is extraordinarily sparse. This one occurs to be the youngest pangolin ever found from Europe and the one pangolin fossil from Pleistocene Europe.”

The bone, a humerus — or higher arm bone — got here from Grăunceanu, a wealthy fossil deposit within the Olteţ River Valley of Romania. For practically a decade, Terhune and a global crew of researchers have centered their consideration on Grăunceanu and different websites of the Olteţ. These websites, initially found due to landslides through the Sixties, have produced fossils from all kinds of animal species, together with a big terrestrial monkey, short-necked giraffe, rhinos and saber-toothed cats, along with the brand new pangolin species.

“What’s particularly thrilling is that though some work within the Thirties prompt the presence of pangolins in Europe through the Pleistocene, these fossils had been misplaced, and different researchers doubted their validity,” Terhune mentioned. “Now we all know for positive that pangolins have been current in Europe round not less than 2 million years in the past.”

Fashionable-day pangolins exist in Asia and Africa. Also known as scaly anteaters, they appear considerably just like the armadillos that roam the southern United States. With scales from head to tail, they’re typically mistaken as reptiles, however trendy pangolins are literally mammals and are most intently associated to carnivores. They’re additionally among the many most illegally trafficked animals on the planet. In line with the World Wildlife Fund, the eight species of dwelling pangolins on two continents vary from “susceptible” to “critically endangered.”

The brand new pangolin fossil is between about 1.9 to 2.2 million years previous, inserting it inside the vary of the Pleistocene Epoch, which ran from roughly 2.6 million years in the past to about 11,700 years in the past. The identification of this fossil as a pangolin is important as a result of earlier analysis prompt that pangolins disappeared from the European paleontological file through the middle-Miocene, nearer to 10 million years in the past. Earlier work hypothesized that pangolins have been pushed towards extra tropical and sub-tropical equatorial environments resulting from international cooling developments.

Because the youngest and finest documented fossil pangolin from Europe and the one fossil from Pleistocene Europe, the brand new species revises an earlier understanding of pangolin evolution and bio-geography. Smutsia olteniensis, as the brand new species is known as, shares a number of distinctive traits with different dwelling members of the genus Smutsia, that are at present discovered solely in Africa.

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Supplies supplied by College of Arkansas. Unique written by Matt McGowan. Notice: Content material could also be edited for model and size.

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