Panamanian crocodile-like camel fossils discovered

This video from the USA says about itself:

Fossilized camel toe bone unearthed during Florida training dig for OVIASC members.

By Jennifer Viegas:

Fossils of Crocodile-Like Camel Found

Mon Mar 5, 2012

Camels with long, crocodile-like snouts once lived near what is now the Panama Canal, suggests a new study.

The camels lived 20 million years ago and are now considered to be among the oldest known animals from Panama.

“They were probably browsers in the forests of the ancient tropics. We can say that because the crowns are really short,” lead author Aldo Rincon, a University of Florida geology doctoral student, said in a press release.

Rincon and his team are working with the Panama Canal Authority and scientists at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute to make the most of a five-year window of excavations during Panama Canal expansions that began in 2009.

The new fossil camels, Aguascalietia panamaensis and Aguascalientia minuta, extend the distribution of mammals to their southernmost point in the ancient tropics of Central America.

Excavations are often difficult in the tropics because the lush vegetation prevents access. That’s not such a bad thing, considering that these species-rich areas contain some of the world’s most important ecosystems, including rain forests that regulate climate systems and serve as a vital source of food and medicine.

“We’re discovering this fabulous new diversity of animals that lived in Central America that we didn’t even know about before,” said co-author Bruce MacFadden, vertebrate paleontology curator at the Florida Museum on the UF campus and co-principal investigator on the NSF grant funding the project.

“The family originated about 30 million years ago and they’re found widespread throughout North America, but prior to this discovery, they were unknown south of Mexico.”

The two new fossil camels, found in the Las Cascadas formation, belong to an evolutionary branch of the camel family separate from the one that gave rise to modern camels.

Camels belong to a group of even-toed ungulates that includes cattle, goats, sheep, deer, buffalo and pigs. Other fossil mammals discovered in Panama from the early Miocene have been restricted to those also found in North America at the time.

While researchers are sure the ancient camels were herbivores that likely browsed in forests, they are still analyzing seeds and pollen to better understand the environment of the ancient tropics.

“People think of camels as being in the Old World, but their distribution in the past is different than what we know today,” MacFadden said. “The ancestors of llamas originated in North America and then when the land bridge formed about four to five million years ago, they dispersed into South America and evolved into the llama, alpaca, guanaco and vicuña.”

The study was published in the latest Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Several slender-limbed, small camelid taxa of the Oligocene and Miocene are grouped together in Stenomylinae: all known members of this group were evidently cursorial, gazelle-like camelids of grassland habitats, and they’ve often been termed ‘gazelle camels’: here.

The feeding habits of mammals haven’t always been what they are today, particularly for omnivores, finds a new study. Some groups of mammals almost exclusively eat meat — take lions and tigers and other big cats, for example. Other mammals such as deer, cows and antelope are predominantly plant-eaters, living on a diet of leaves, shoots, fruits and bark. But particularly for omnivores that live on plant foods in addition to meat, the situation wasn’t always that way, finds a new study by researchers working at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in Durham, North Carolina: here.

DNA extracted from bones collected in the Yukon show that North America’s last camel was a close relative of Old World camels and not llamas as previously thought. Although they are now extinct in North America, camels first evolved there more than 40 million years ago. Living camels are now limited to the Old World (dromedary and Bactrian camels), and South America (llamas, guanacos, and alpacas). For much of the Cenozoic however, camels were common and diverse in North America. One of the last camels to live in North America was Camelops, which went extinct about 13,000 years ago: here.

An ancient fourteen-foot tall camel was excavated by paleontologists at the University of Louisiana. This specimen is the most complete giant camel fossil to date. Researchers at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette excavated a giant camel found in Oregon back in 2015. The specimen is the most complete fossil of Megatylopus, an extinct large camel that lived from the Late Pliocene to Early Pleistocene (13.6-1.8 million years ago). This particular specimen is thought to be around 7 million years old and 4 meters (14 feet) tall. A study done by Mendoza and his team estimate Megatylopus camels to weigh around 1698 kg (3700 lbs): here.

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