Mammals’ arms, older than dinosaurs


This video says about itself:

Short clip from the 2008 documentary, “Catastrophe – Planet of Fire”.

Over 150 million years before Tyrannosaurus rex came along, Gorgonopsian was the Earth’s most efficient carnivore. Armed with serrated interlocking teeth, this ferocious animal was the ancient world’s top predator.

Gorgonopsia (Gorgon face) is a suborder of therapsid synapsids. Like other therapsids, Gorgonopsians were at one time called “mammal-like reptiles”.

From the Field Museum in the USA:

Mammals’ unique arms started evolving before the dinosaurs existed

March 18, 2019

Summary: One of the things that makes mammals special is our diverse forelimbs — bat wings, whale flippers, gibbon arms, and cheetah legs have evolved to do different, specialized tasks. Scientists wanted to see where this mammalian trait started evolving, so they examined fossils from early mammal relatives to see when the upper arm bones started diversifying. They discovered that the trait took root 270 million years ago — 30 million years before the earliest dinosaurs existed.

Bats fly, whales swim, gibbons swing from tree to tree, horses gallop, and humans swipe on their phones — the different habitats and lifestyles of mammals rely on our unique forelimbs. No other group of vertebrate animals has evolved so many different kinds of arms: in contrast, all birds have wings, and pretty much all lizards walk on all fours. Our forelimbs are a big part of what makes mammals special, and in a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists have discovered that our early relatives started evolving diverse forelimbs 270 million years ago — a good 30 million years before the earliest dinosaurs existed.

“Aside from fur, diverse forelimb shape is one of the most iconic characteristics of mammals,” says the paper’s lead author Jacqueline Lungmus, a research assistant at Chicago’s Field Museum and a doctoral candidate at the University of Chicago. “We were trying to understand where that comes from, if it’s a recent trait or if this has been something special about the group of animals that we belong to from the beginning.”

To determine the origins of mammals’ arms today, Lungmus and her co-author, Field Museum curator Ken Angielczyk, examined the fossils of mammals’ ancient relatives. About 312 million years ago, land-dwelling vertebrates split into two groups — the sauropsids, which went on to include dinosaurs, birds, crocodiles, and lizards, and the synapsids, the group that mammals are part of. A key difference between sauropsids and synapsids is the pattern of openings in the skull where jaw muscles attach. While the earliest synapsids, called pelycosaurs, were more closely related to humans than to dinosaurs, they looked like hulking reptiles. Angielczyk notes, “If you saw a pelycosaur walking down the street, you wouldn’t think it looked like a mammal — you’d say, ‘That’s a weird-looking crocodile.'”

About 270 million years ago, though, a more diverse (and sometimes furry) line of our family tree emerged: the therapsids. “Modern mammals are the only surviving therapsids — this is the group that we’re part of today,” explains Lungmus. Therapsids were the first members of our family to really branch out — instead of just croc-like pelycosaurs, the therapsids included lithe carnivores, burly-armed burrowers, and tree-dwelling plant-eaters.

Lungmus and Angielczyk set out to see if this explosion of diversity came with a corresponding explosion in different forelimb shapes. “This is the first study to quantify forelimb shape across a big sample of these animals,” says Lungmus. The team examined the upper arm bones of hundreds of fossil specimens representing 73 kinds of pelycosaurs and therapsids, taking measurements near where the bones joined the shoulder and the elbow. They then analyzed the shapes of the bones using a technique called geometric morphometrics.

When they compared the shapes of arm bones, the researchers found a lot more variation in the bones of the therapsids than the pelycosaurs. They also noted that the upper part of the arm, near the shoulder, was especially varied in therapsids — a feature that might have let them move more freely than the pelycosaurs, whose bulky and tightly-fitting shoulder bones likely gave them a more limited range of motion.

Lungmus and Angielczyk found that a wide variety of different forelimb shapes evolved within the therapsids 270 million years ago. “The therapsids are the first synapsids to increase the variability of their forelimbs — this study dramatically pushes that trait back in time,” says Lungmus. Prior to this study, the earliest that paleontologists had been able to definitively trace back mammals’ diverse forelimbs was 160 million years ago. With Lungmus and Angielczyk’s work, that’s been pushed back by more than a hundred million years.

The researchers note that the study helps explain how mammals evolved traits that have made us what we are today. “So much of what we do every day is related to the way our forelimbs evolved — even simple things like holding a phone,” says Angielczyk.

“This is something that’s so cool about our evolutionary lineage,” says Lungmus. “These animals are in the same group as us — part of what makes this research compelling is that these are our relatives.”

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Singer Paul Robeson, new book


Paul Robeson's legacy: Proud Valley

By Tayo Aluko in Britain:

Monday, March 18, 2019

Book Review: No Way But This: In search of Paul Robeson by Jeff Sparrow

Part travelogue, part biography, this is an engrossing account of the life and times of the great singer, actor and political activist

No Way But This
by Jeff Sparrow
(Scribe, £9.99)

IN NO Way But This, Jeff Sparrow recounts a personal pilgrimage from his native Australia to places around the world Paul Robeson visited, while assessing the impact his life continues to have today.

From Sydney — where Robeson’s career ended in 1960 — Sparrow continued via Greensboro and Williamston, North Carolina, where his father had been enslaved, to Robeson’s birthplace in Princeton, New Jersey, and Harlem, New York, where he lived most of his adult life.

He travelled on to to London, where Robeson lived and visited on-and-off for several decades and Wales, where his political education began. Thence to Spain, where Robeson and his wife Essie went during the Spanish civil war and finally to Moscow, scene of many Robeson triumphs and a spectacular mental breakdown.

This is a travel diary in which Sparrow lyrically recounts conversations he had, buildings he visited, streets he walked down and landscapes he traversed in his quest to understand Robeson’s thoughts, motivations, influences and legacies.

He meets BBC Wales’s Beverley Humphreys, who had organised a Robeson exhibition, talks to school children about what he had stood for and to now-elderly black Welsh people who fondly remember being child extras in the film Proud Valley in which Robeson starred.

No Way But This

Such personal reflections make this more an exploration of Robeson’s contemporary legacy than a biography. He draws on many existing Robeson biographies to both give the facts of Robeson’s life and as his travel guides as he set off on an itinerary that would allow for some spontaneity in the midst of whatever planning he had done.

He describes narrowly avoiding being forced to view the corpse of a black activist lying in state in Harlem just because that happened to be where the person that an academic suggested he interview was going that afternoon. The subsequent conversation was about the gentrification of Harlem and of the prison-industrial system, both of which illustrate a damning lack of progress made decades after Robeson.

Sparrow also went to Siberia to visit that embodiment of the horrors many experienced under Stalin — a gulag, now a museum, in Perm. There, the guide — whose family were among Stalin’s victims — photographs Sparrow behind bars before icily noting that those who didn’t want the museum to exist and instead “will approach a time when new repressions will come.”

Sparrow finally describes a visit to the Graveyard of Fallen Heroes in Moscow. Here, wandering among toppled statues of significant players in the Soviet project, he reflects on how far the world has fallen from those ideals and how new dictators will always replace old ones unless we remain mindful of those stories that the authorities seek to suppress.

Sparrow’s book is a very effective and compelling way of introducing Robeson to readers not so interested in conventional biographies. Yet the section misleadingly described as “further reading” is actually a bibliography, listing the author’s research sources, many of which had nothing at all to do with Robeson. This is exacerbated by an absence of footnotes and a wholly unsatisfactory reference section and several factual inaccuracies in the body of the book.

Such gripes aside, I greatly enjoyed No Way But This and admire Sparrow’s use of his and others’ personal perspectives to cast new light on this towering figure, whose long shadow can be perceived almost physically everywhere he went and beyond.

Tayo Aluko is the writer and performer of Call Mr Robeson – A Life, With Songs and of Just An Ordinary Lawyer. A fuller version of his review is available at Camden New Journal.

Alligators, birds and dinosaurs, new study


This 2013 video from Florida in the USA is called Ninja Gator! Alligator climbs fence.

From the University of Maryland in the USA:

Alligator study reveals insight into dinosaur hearing

March 18, 2019

Summary: A biologist finds alligators build neural maps of sound the way birds do, suggesting the hearing strategy existed in their common ancestor, the dinosaurs.

Alligators are not descendants of dinosaurs, but from early archosaur ancestors of both dinosaurs and crocodiles.

According to most paleontologists, birds are indeed descendants of dinosaurs.

To determine where a sound is coming from, animal brains analyze the minute difference in time it takes a sound to reach each ear — a cue known as interaural time difference. What happens to the cue once the signals get to the brain depends on what kind of animal is doing the hearing.

Scientists have known that birds are exceptionally good at creating neural maps to chart the location of sounds, and that the strategy differs in mammals. Little was known, however, about how alligators process interaural time difference.

A new study of American alligators found that the reptiles form neural maps of sound in the same way birds do. The research by Catherine Carr, a Distinguished University Professor of Biology at the University of Maryland, and her colleague Lutz Kettler from the Technische Universität München, was published in the Journal of Neuroscience on March 18, 2019.

Most research into how animals analyze interaural time difference has focused on physical features such as skull size and shape, but Carr and Kettler believed it was important to look at evolutionary relationships.

Birds have very small head sizes compared with alligators, but the two groups share a common ancestor — the archosaur — which predates dinosaurs. Archosaurs began to emerge around 246 million years ago and split into two lineages; one that led to alligators and one that led to dinosaurs. Although most dinosaurs died out during the mass extinction event 66 million years ago, some survived to evolve into modern birds.

Carr and Kettler’s findings indicate that the hearing strategy birds and alligators share may have less to do with head size and more to do with common ancestry.

“Our research strongly suggests that this particular hearing strategy first evolved in their common ancestor,” Carr said. “The other option, that they independently evolved the same complex strategy, seems very unlikely.”

To study how alligators identify where sound comes from, the researchers anesthetized 40 American Alligators and fitted them with earphones. They played tones for the sleepy reptiles and measured the response of a structure in their brain stems called the nucleus laminaris. This structure is the seat of auditory signal processing. Their results showed that alligators create neural maps very similar to those previously measured in barn owls and chickens. The same maps have not been recorded in the equivalent structure in mammal brains.

“We know so little about dinosaurs,” Carr said. “Comparative studies such as this one, which identify common traits extending back through evolutionary time add to our understanding of their biology.”

Brazilian far-right Bolsonaro’s far-right astrological Rasputin


This music video, recorded in Russia, is Boney M – Rasputin. It is about the faith healer and power behind the throne of Czar Nicholas II, Grigori Rasputin.

So, early in the twentieth century, Nicholas II, autocrat of Russia, had a religious right quack as power behind the throne.

In this twenty-first century, in South Korea, Park Geun-hye, military dictator’s daughter and impeached president, had her very own ‘fundamentalist Christian-spiritualist’ ‘Rasputin’ religious right quack as power behind the throne.

In this twenty-first century, Donald Trump, wannabe autocrat of the USA, has a religious right quack, selling ‘eternal life’ for $1,114, as power behind the throne.

In Brazil, there are religious right quacks as well. At least one them is not just a faith healer, but also seems to be a serial child abuser.

And one of these religious right quacks, an astrologer, is now the power behind the throne of Brazil’s dictatorshop loving, wildlife hating, homophobic and racist President Jair Bolsonaro.

This 9 December 2018 video in Portuguese is called Olavo de Carvalho, o Rasputin brasileiro [The Rasputin of Brazil].

By Brian Winter in Americas Quarterly in the USA, 17 December 2018:

Jair Bolsonaro’s Guru

Olavo de Carvalho might be the most important voice in Brazil’s incoming government. And he doesn’t even live there.

The intellectual guru to Brazil’s next president lives at the end of a country road in Virginia, in a modest house with duct tape covering a crack in the front window, an American flag on the porch and a huge English mastiff named “Big Mac” standing guard.

And that’s not even the most surprising part of Olavo de Carvalho’s story.

Despite not having lived in Brazil since 2005, and liberally sprinkling his columns and speeches with references to little-known 19th century philosophers, the pipe-smoking 71-year-old has built a fervent social media following of more than 500,000 people – among them President-elect Jair Bolsonaro, who prominently displayed Carvalho’s book The Minimum You Need to Know to Not Be an Idiot on his desk during his election night victory speech in October.

Carvalho’s championing of individual liberties

only for rich heterosexual males. Not for women, non-whites, LGBTQ people, leftists, etc.

and Christianity, and his combative, obscenity-laced vilification of globalism, Islam, communists and the left in general, recalls a Brazilian Sean Hannity or Steve Bannon, with a bit of the Marlboro Man mixed in. Such ideas were completely out of the mainstream in Brazil just six months ago – but novelty is precisely the core of his (and Bolsonaro’s) appeal in a country still reeling from its worst recession in a century and a series of scandals that left the previous political establishment in ruins.

The day I visited him in November, Carvalho was riding high. Bolsonaro had just named as his foreign minister Ernesto Araújo, a career diplomat whom Carvalho by all accounts single-handedly plucked from relative obscurity and recommended for the job. Araújo had on his personal blog called climate change a Marxist conspiracy and complained about the supposed “criminalization” of heterosexual intercourse, oil and red meat. “I started reading (the blog) and I said – ‘This guy is a genius! He has to be foreign minister!’” Carvalho enthused. “He understands the risk from globalism is real … he’s a Christian, and he’ll do the best he can.”

He wasn’t shy about his influence on Bolsonaro, despite the fact the two have never met in person. “Look, I think the person he listens to most is me,” he said. That struck me as an exaggeration, but a few days later, Bolsonaro would name another Carvalho pick as education minister – leaving two portfolios critical to Brazil’s future in the hands of his disciples.

During an interview that lasted almost three hours, Carvalho was charming and solicitous, despite a reputation for lashing out at journalists who challenge him, as I repeatedly did. He invited me to join him in a glass of Grand Muriel orange liqueur (I accepted, even though it was 1:30 p.m. on a Monday). He proudly showed me his collection of rifles and detailed his love for the United States, especially “rednecks”, whom he called “the best people in the world.”

In our conversation, Carvalho also justified state-sponsored mass murder in Brazil during the last dictatorship, though he later said he meant this “ironically”. He explained why he believes George Soros … and China are all part of a globalist conspiracy, compared Bolsonaro to George Washington (“They didn’t know something was impossible, so they just went and did it”) and marveled at his own fame. “This has never happened in the history of the world – a writer who had this kind of influence on the people,” he chuckled. “It could only happen in Brazil.”

Throughout his career, Carvalho has been a professional astrologer, a newspaper columnist, a teacher of philosophy …

By the late 1990s, he had embraced a mix of economic liberalism and conservative social mores familiar to anyone who has ever watched Fox News. But such ideas were utterly foreign in Brazil, which had been governed mostly by the left and center-left since the last military dictatorship ended in 1985.

“There was no conservative opposition to speak of at the time. Carvalho invented it,” said Gerald Brant, a Brazilian hedge fund executive who is close to the Bolsonaro family. In terms of influence, he compared Carvalho to William F. Buckley Jr., the premier U.S. conservative intellectual of the late 20th century.

I began my interview with Carvalho by asking him to explain his intellectual evolution, half-expecting to hear names like Buckley or Ronald Reagan. But instead, he embarked on a long monologue about the “death of high culture” in Brazil beginning in the 1960s, which he blamed mostly on the left and particularly the Workers’ Party of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who was president from 2003 to 2010.

Indeed, Carvalho’s popularity may be derived less from what he supports, and more from what he opposes. Even at the peak of the left’s power in the late 2000s, when Brazil’s economy was booming and Lula enjoyed approval ratings near 90 percent, Carvalho never stopped his attacks on “cultural Marxism” , … which he saw as a threat to individual freedoms. “I was criticizing people who had never been criticized – untouchables, gods. Lula was a god. And he was the most ridiculous of all,” he said.

He also criticized feminism, called Barack Obama’s birth certificate a fake, and lashed out at what he deemed the Workers’ Party’s excessive coddling of the LGBT community. “I don’t believe it would have been better if my father, instead of depositing his sperm in my mother’s womb, had injected it into the rectal passage of his neighbor, from where the liquid in question would have gone into the toilet at the first opportunity,” he wrote in a 2007 newspaper column included in one of his “best of” books.

Such messages were restricted to a fervent circle of believers – until the economy began its spectacular collapse. When anti-government protests broke out in several cities in 2013, many people carried posters saying “Olavo was right”, As the country imploded further, with the eruption of the “Car Wash” scandal, the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff and, finally, Lula’s imprisonment on corruption charges in April, Carvalho began to be treated as a kind of oracle – the only person who saw the apocalypse coming.

The book Bolsonaro featured on election night has sold more than 350,000 copies – a truly gargantuan sum in Brazil. But Carvalho’s fame also stems from his YouTube channel, where he sits at his desk, smokes his pipe and simply talks. I watched several hours, and was struck by the inclusive, often soothing tone: Carvalho makes his listeners feel like they’re sharing an intimate secret as he ruminates on philosophers from Plato to Eric Voegelin to Antonio Gramsci.

His wife Roxane, who came in and out during our interview, was one of his students in the 1980s. “I started listening, and I thought – ‘Wow, this exists! I’m able to understand!’” she recalled. …

A clear influence on policy

Within Brazilian conservative circles, there is debate over how much pull Carvalho really has – or should have – within the next government. Even some admirers distance themselves from what they call Carvalho’s “excesses”, and say his ideas are tempered by more pragmatic figures, especially the retired generals Bolsonaro has appointed to his cabinet.

But the influence is undeniable. As a relatively recent convert to ideas like small government, Bolsonaro seems to depend heavily on Carvalho’s ideas for guidance, as well as a degree of legitimacy with his base. His son Eduardo, a congressman, is the closest member of the family to Carvalho – the two communicate often – and has echoed many of the guru’s messages almost word for word.

For his part, Carvalho expressed a nuanced view of the president-elect. Like many Brazilians, the first thing he liked was his reputation for not being corrupt. “Even if he has a shit government, he won’t steal. That struck me as a sufficient virtue,” Carvalho said. He acknowledged Bolsonaro “doesn’t speak well” and “doesn’t have a single economic idea in his head,” but said he appreciated his tough stance on crime. Only a “true war” on drug gangs, he said, could fix a country with more than 63,000 homicides a year.

When I pointed out that shoot-first security policies have rarely produced lasting positive results in Latin America, Carvalho cited several false or highly dubious claims. He said “thousands and thousands of Islamic agents are coming in through the Amazon,” and blamed the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) for being a main source of illegal arms in Brazil (the FARC signed a peace deal in 2016). He also said many Cuban doctors working under a special program in Brazil were secret agents conspiring with local drug gangs and the landless workers’ movement.

“They’re all forming an army,” Carvalho said. “Do you think these people can be conquered through social policies?”

For foreign investment, Carvalho said Brazil should favor the United States, “because it’s a Christian people, a benevolent people.” “They could potentially steal, but they won’t steal much, eh?” he said. By contrast, he said the Chinese “always have a strategic agenda,” and that with Beijing’s aid, “communists are penetrating Latin America today with incredible force.” He also warned of an “Islamic plan for world domination”, adding “they’ve been globalists for 14 centuries.”

All of these ideas clash with long-held principles of Brazilian foreign policy, which is traditionally skeptical of Washington and cultivates ties with the developing world. But in the weeks after my visit, there were signs Carvalho’s agenda was gaining traction. Bolsonaro took steps to force the Cuban doctors to leave Brazil, and move Brazil’s Israeli embassy to Jerusalem. A policy paper leaked in which Araújo, the new foreign minister, proposed an “alliance of the three biggest Christian nations: Brazil, the U.S. and Russia.” And during a visit to Washington on behalf of his father, Eduardo Bolsonaro donned a “Trump 2020” hat and pledged to “support policies to stop Iran.”

Turning back the clock

As our interview drew to a close, I shared my biggest concern about Bolsonaro: that his government could trample democratic institutions and cause the deaths of numerous innocent people. I cited Bolsonaro’s frequent lament that the “biggest error” of Brazil’s 1964-85 dictatorship had been “to torture (people) instead of killing them.”

Carvalho chuckled. “You know, sometimes I think that way.”

“Oh, Olavo, please”, I said.

He took a puff from his pipe. “We see all the misery those guys created. Look – how many communists were there in Brazil back then? 20,000? You kill 20,000 people back then, and you’d have saved 70,000 Brazilians a year.”

The implication was that, by eliminating leftists in the 1960s, Brazil might have been governed by more virtuous people who would have never allowed murder rates to reach their current level. … We argued about this for a few minutes until I said that as an American who loves Brazil, I didn’t want to see its government engaged in mass murder.

“The Americans are idealistic people with good hearts,” he replied. “They believe other peoples are the same. Well, let me tell you something: Outside of (this country), there are just filhos de puta [sons of whores]”.

I must have looked upset, because Carvalho shifted his focus and said Bolsonaro would only depart from a democratic path “if he’s very poorly advised.” Instead, he said he would encourage Bolsonaro to “take one problem at a time,” focus on combating crime during his first year, delegate in areas like the economy that he doesn’t really understand, and tell people: “It’s been 70 years of mistakes, and I can’t fix everything in one day.”

Dinosaur age mammal discovery in Tanzania


Side view of the lower jaw of Galulatherium jenkinsi, the most complete mammal yet know from the Cretaceous Period of the African continent, and named this week by researchers from Ohio University. Credit : Patrick O'Connor, Ohio University

From Ohio University in the USA:

Rukwa Rift Basin Project names new Cretaceous mammal from East African Rift System

March 18, 2019

Ohio University researchers announced a new species of mammal from the Age of Dinosaurs, representing the most complete mammal from the Cretaceous Period of continental Africa, and providing tantalizing insights into the past diversity of mammals on the planet.

The National Science Foundation-funded OHIO team, in collaboration with international colleagues, identified and named the new mammal in an article published today in Acta Paleontologica Polonica. This nearly complete lower jaw represents the first named mammal species from the Late Cretaceous Period (100-66 million years ago) of the entire African continent. The squirrel-sized animal was probably related to a group of southern hemisphere mammals known as gondwanatherians, yet a bizarre combination of features (including evergrowing and enamel-less peg-like teeth) make it challenging to easily place within any group of mammals yet known, living or extinct.

The new mammal is named Galulatherium jenkinsi, a name based on the Galula rock unit (itself derived from one of the local villages in the field area) and therium, Latin for beast, with the species name “jenkinsi” honoring the late Farish Jenkins, distinguished professor of anatomy and organismic biology at Harvard University and a strong supporter of the Rukwa Rift Basin Project early in its development.

The type and only specimen of Galulatherium was discovered in 2002, when Rukwa Rift Basin Project researchers found a bone fragment eroding from Cretaceous-age red sandstones in the Rukwa Rift Basin in southwestern Tanzania. After painstakingly removing the rock from the delicate specimen, the team announced the discovery of a new mammal in 2003, yet they conservatively refrained from establishing a name for the enigmatic new species until additional details of its anatomy could be revealed. In the intervening years, improvements in high-resolution x-ray computed tomography enabled the team to document detailed anatomy of the specimen and to establish Galulatherium as a species new to science.

“The analysis of Galulatherium has been a collaborative process, engaging with a group of experts to tackle the unique morphology of this specimen,” noted Dr. Patrick O’Connor, professor of anatomy at Ohio University and lead author of the paper. “Additional information gleaned from density-based microCT analyses, particularly the presence of ever-growing, enamel-less teeth, has allowed us to compare Galulatherium with other Mesozoic and early Cenozoic mammals, as well as with modern groups like sloths, in order to establish the best anatomical and functional analogs for this unique type of dentition.”

Gonwanatherian mammals are best known from Cretaceous and early Cenozoic rock units in Madagascar and Argentina, with other specimens known from India and Antarctica. Members of the research team have worked across the globe in search of early mammals.

“The fact that this is the first discovery of an identifiable mammal fossil in the Late Cretaceous of all of mainland Africa is incredibly exhilarating on so many levels,” added co-author David Krause, curator of paleontology at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. “The needle is very small and the haystack is very big. And we know that there are so many more needles to find there.”

The perplexing story of Galulatherium and identifying its closest relatives is just the starting point. Getting ANY insight into what mammals lived on the continent during this time is groundbreaking, but it seems that Galulatherium is not a predecessor of any of the mammals that live on Africa today. So what happened to it and its kin? Were they wiped out at the end of the Cretaceous? When did the ancestors of Africa’s extant mammalian lineages arrive on the continent? Or were they living alongside Galulatherium and just have not yet been found?

“All great questions that will only be answered with the discovery of additional fossils, underscoring the need for exploratory research in places like the Rukwa Rift Basin and elsewhere on the continent,” added O’Connor.

The study included experts from several institutions to pore over the tiny jaw. Yet the specimen preserved a truly unique combination of anatomical features, making it difficult to place in the existing framework of mammalian evolution, and ultimately raising more questions than it answers.

“What began with the description of a compact specimen became a broader quest to understand how this jaw fits into the complex puzzle of mammalian evolution,” said Dr. Nancy Stevens, Ohio University professor and co-author on the paper.

Galulatherium is not the only animal discovered by the research team in the Rukwa Rift Basin. Other Cretaceous-age finds include bizarre relatives of early crocodiles and three distinct species of long-necked herbivorous sauropod dinosaurs. Finds from younger rocks in the region contain the oldest evidence of the split between monkeys and apes. Taken together, these findings from the East African Rift reveal a crucial glimpse into ancient ecosystems of Africa and encourage additional field exploration on the continent.

Other Cretaceous findings by the Rukwa Rift Basin Project research team in the Rukwa Rift Basin include:

  • Mnyamawantuka moyowamkia — titanosaurian sauropod dinosaur, Rukwa Rift Basin
  • Shingopana songwensis — titanosaurian sauropod dinosaur, Rukwa Rift Basin
  • Rukwatitan bisepultustitanosaurian sauropod dinosaur, Rukwa Rift Basin
  • Pakasuchus kapilimai — mammal-like crocodile, Rukwa Rift Basin

The team has also made discoveries in the younger Paleogene deposits of the Rukwa Rift Basin:

  • Early evidence for monkey-ape split, Rukwa Rift Basin
  • Oldest fossil evidence of venomous snakes, Rukwa Rift Basin
  • Early evidence of insect farming — Fossil Termite Nests, Rukwa Rift Basin
  • Bobcat-sized carnivore, Rukwa Rift Basin

The study was funded by the US National Science Foundation Division of Earth Sciences, the National Geographic Society, the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, and the OHIO Office of the Vice President for Research and Creative Activity.

Hoe elephants survive African heat


This February 2019 video says about itself:

See How Cracked Skin Helps Elephants Stay Cool | Decoder

Why do elephants have wrinkled skin? The intricate web of cracks and crevices that gives African elephants their distinctive look is, in fact, an essential adaptation. Their ability to stay cool in hot African temperatures is thanks to these “wrinkles”, which aren’t actually wrinkles at all, but millions of microscopic cracks in their epidermis.