Mysterious Miocene fossils from Nebraska, USA


This video from the USA says about itself:

29 January 2018

In the late 1800s, paleontologists in Nebraska found huge coils of hardened sand stuck deep in the earth. Local ranchers called them Devil’s Corkscrews and scientists called them Daemonelix. It was clear these corkscrews were created by some form of life, but what?

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Marsupial fossil discovery in Australia


This 2016 video is called Extinct and Extant Australian Species.

From Palaeontologia Electronica:

Miminipossum notioplanetes, a Miocene forest-dwelling phalangeridan (Marsupialia; Diprotodontia) from northern and central Australia

ABSTRACT

Miminipossum notioplanetes represents a new Early/Middle Miocene family (Miminipossumidae) of phalangeridan possums recovered from the Two Trees Local Fauna from the Riversleigh World Heritage area in northwestern Queensland and the Kutjamarpu Local Fauna of the Tirari Desert in northern South Australia. Because of widespread convergence in key features of P3 and M1 among phalangeridan families, the interfamilial relationships of Miminipossumidae are uncertain. The age of the Kutjamarpu Local Fauna has been in doubt with estimates ranging from Late Oligocene to Middle Miocene. The new taxon raises to 15 the number of taxa in the Kutjamarpu Local Fauna that are shared with both Riversleigh’s Faunal Zone B (Early Miocene) and Riversleigh’s Faunal Zone C (Middle Miocene) assemblages.

Although there is relatively little biocorrelative support for the estimate of a Late Oligocene age, doubt remains about whether the age is more likely to be Early or Middle Miocene. In terms of palaeoenvironmental implications, because both Riversleigh’s Early and Middle Mio-cene assemblages have been concluded to have accumulated in temperate, wet, species-rich lowland forests, the same or similar Early/Middle Miocene palaeoenvironments may well have extended into central Australia at the time when the Kutjamarpu assemblage was accumulating.

Big fossil bat discovery in New Zealand


This video says about itself:

Fossils Reveal Giant New Species of Burrowing Bat: Vulcanops jennyworthyae

11 January 2018

Paleontologists say they’ve found the fossilized remains of a new genus and species of bat that lived in New Zealand between 19 and 16 million years ago (Early Miocene epoch).

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Giant extinct burrowing bat unearthed in New Zealand by palaeontologists

Discovery highlights the diversity of life that has been lost from the island nation

Josh Gabbatiss, Science Correspondent

Thursday 11 January 2018 18:15 GMT

Palaeontologists have discovered teeth and bones belonging to an ancient species of burrowing bat.

The species, named Vulcanops jennyworthyae, inhabited New Zealand around 16 million years ago.

Burrowing bats are a unique group of mammals only found in New Zealand.

These animals not only fly, but crawl along the ground too, and are equipped with specialised claws that enable them to do so.

Vulcanops is the biggest burrowing bat ever found – although it still only weighed around 40 grams.

The finding was described in the journal Scientific Reports.

“Burrowing bats are more closely related to bats living in South America than to others in the south-west Pacific,” said Professor Sue Hand, the first author of the study describing the new species, and a palaeontologist at the University of New South Wales.

Specifically, Prof Hand said burrowing bats such as Vulcanops are related to vampire bats.

However, unlike its blood-feeding cousins, the teeth of this new species suggest it consumed plant material as well as small creatures.

The scientists said the discovery served as a reminder of the diversity of life that has been lost from New Zealand.

“These bats, along with land turtles and crocodiles, show that major groups of animals have been lost from New Zealand”, said study co-author Professor Paul Scofield, of Canterbury Museum.

“They show that the iconic survivors of this lost fauna – the tuataras, moas, kiwi, acanthisittid wrens, and leiopelmatid frogs – evolved in a far more complex community that hitherto thought.”

Many bats used to inhabit New Zealand, but climate fluctuations are thought to have led to the ultimate demise of all but two species, which still survive today.

While the nation is still home to a diverse array of bird species, the two remaining bats are the only mammals to still inhabit the island that were not introduced by humans.

Ancient South American carnivorous marsupial relatives, new research


This video says about itself:

30 Decamber 2017

Thylacosmilus is an extinct genus of saber-toothed metatherian that inhabited South America from the Late Miocene to Pliocene epochs.

Though Thylacosmilus is one of several predatory mammal genera typically called “saber-toothed cats“, it was not a felid placentalian, but a sparassodont, a group closely related to marsupials, and only superficially resembled other saber-toothed mammals due to convergent evolution.

Remains of this animal have been found primarily in Catamarca, Entre Ríos, and La Pampa Provinces in northern Argentina.

Thylacosmilus was described and named by Elmer S. Riggs in 1933. He named two species, T. atrox and T. lentis.

Thylacosmilus had large, saber-like canines. The roots of these canines grew throughout the animal’s life, growing in an arc up the maxilla and above the orbits. Its cervical vertebrae were very strong and to some extent resembled the vertebrae of Machairodontinae.

Body mass estimates of Thylacosmilus suggest this animal weighed between 80 to 120 kilograms (180 to 260 lb), and one estimate suggesting up to 150 kg (330 lb), about the same size as a modern jaguar.

From Proceedings of the Royal Society B:

Diversity and disparity of sparassodonts (Metatheria) reveal non-analogue nature of ancient South American mammalian carnivore guilds

3 January 2018

Abstract

This study investigates whether terrestrial mammalian carnivore guilds of ancient South America, which developed in relative isolation, were similar to those of other continents.

We do so through analyses of clade diversification, ecomorphology and guild structure in the Sparassodonta, metatherians that were the predominant mammalian carnivores of pre-Pleistocene South America. Body mass and 16 characters of the dentition are used to quantify morphological diversity (disparity) in sparassodonts and to compare them to extant marsupial and placental carnivores and extinct North American carnivoramorphans.

We also compare trophic diversity of the Early Miocene terrestrial carnivore guild of Santa Cruz, Argentina to that of 14 modern and fossil guilds from other continents.

We find that sparassodonts had comparatively low ecomorphological disparity throughout their history and that South American carnivore palaeoguilds, as represented by that of Santa Cruz, Argentina, were unlike modern or fossil carnivore guilds of other continents in their lack of mesocarnivores and hypocarnivores. Our results add to a growing body of evidence highlighting non-analogue aspects of extinct South American mammals and illustrate the dramatic effects that historical contingency can have on the evolution of mammalian palaeocommunities.

Marsupial lion fossil discovery in Australia


Wakaleo schouteni, the new species of marsupial lion lived in Australia around 19 million years ago. Peter Schouten, Journal of Systematic Palaeontology

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Extinct kangaroo-like lion discovered in Australia

Fossil of dog-sized 19 million year-old marsupial reveals new insights into family tree of these ancient creatures

Josh Gabbatiss, Science Correspondent

Thursday 7 December 2017 01:14 GMT

The fossilised remains of a new species of marsupial lion have been found in Australia.

The predatory creature, named Wakaleo schouteni, is a relative of modern marsupials – mammals like kangaroos and koalas that keep their young in pouches.

It is also closely related to the last surviving species of marsupial lion, Thylacoleo carnifex, which had enormous dagger-like fangs and the strongest bite of any known mammal species.

Though that species survived until around 30,000 years ago, it is thought that the arrival of humans in Australia may be linked to its demise.

This new lion is considerably more ancient. The scientists who discovered it estimate that it has been extinct for at least 19 million years.

It is also considerably smaller. While at 130 kg the larger marsupial lions could have been a real threat to our ancestors, this new species is around the size of a dog, weighing around 23 kg.

The discovery has helped researchers understand the family tree of marsupial lions, which are thought to have existed in Australia at least as far back as 25 million years ago.

“The identification of these new species have brought to light a level of marsupial lion diversity that was quite unexpected and suggest even deeper origins for the family”, said at Dr Anna Gillespie, a palaeontologist at the University of New South Wales and lead author of the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology paper describing the new species.

By examining the teeth of the newly identified specimen, Dr Gillespie and her collaborators have deduced that it is one of the most primitive marsupial lions discovered so far.

Marsupial lions are thought to have been skilful ambush predators that would have terrorised the Australian bush.

Prior to the arrival of humans in Australia, the continent was home to a huge array of giant marsupials.

See also here.

Giraffe ancestor discovery in Spain


This video says about itself:

1 November 2017

Ancient Fossil Offers a New European Ancestor to Giraffes

A near-perfect fossil unearthed close to Madrid appears to be an ancient European ancestor of giraffes, representing a new species in the family and one that had two sets of bony bumps on its head rather than the single set of modern giraffes.

Older fossils in the family known as giraffids have been found before, but none in such pristine condition, said Ari Grossman, an associate professor of anatomy at Midwestern University in Glendale, Ariz., who was not involved in the finding but said the whole field would benefit from it.

“It’s something most paleontologists dream of and very rarely find,” Dr. Grossman said. “The discovery in and of itself was breathtaking.”

Fossils of three other animals of the same species named Decennatherium rex by the researchers were also found, according to a new study in the journal PLOS One. They were not as complete, but all are about nine million years old and provide evidence that ancestors in the giraffe family lived deep inside Europe much earlier than had been suspected. The fossils also suggest that there were physical differences between males and females.

From PLOS ONE:

Newly described giraffid species may help trace evolution of giraffe ancestors

Unusually complete fossil extends range, timespan of sivathere-samothere giraffids

November 1, 2017

A new giraffid species from Spain may extend the range and timespan of the ancestors of giraffes, according to a study published November 1, 2017 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by María Ríos from the National Museum of Natural History, Spain, and colleagues.

The giraffids, a family of ruminants that includes modern day giraffes and okapis, are thought to have existed as far back as the early Miocene epoch. While fossils from over 30 extinct species have been described, the lack of fossilised skulls has been a barrier to determining evolutionary relationships.

The authors of the present study describe a new large giraffid species, named Decennatherium rex sp. nov., from the Spanish province of Madrid. The fossilized skeleton is thought to date from the late Miocene and is unusually complete, providing the researchers with new anatomical and phylogenetic data.

The authors conducted a phylogenetic analysis to help elucidate evolutionary patterns. The results suggest that the Decennatherium genus may have been the most basal branch of a clade of now-extinct giraffids containing both sivatheres, the largest known giraffids, and samotheres, whose appearance was somewhere in between that of okapis and giraffes. All giraffids in this group feature four horn-like skull protuberances known as ossicones, two over the eyes and two larger ridged ossicones at the back of its head. The authors state that Decennatherium was likely the earliest-evolving example of this ossicone layout.

The inclusion of Decennatherium in the sivathere-samothere clade would extend its timespan back to the early late Miocene and its range as far as the Iberian peninsula, making the clade one of the most successful and long-lived of all the giraffids.

As Ríos summarizes: “New four horned extinct giraffid Decennatherium rex from Cerro de los Batallones (9my, Madrid) sheds light on the evolution of the giraffid family and the extinct giant Sivatherium.”

Extinct fanged kangaroos, new research


This video says about itself:

The Fossil Record and Evolution of Kangaroos

28 February 2016

I would first like to give visual credit to BBC Earth, which they have some epic shots on kangaroos.

From the University of Queensland in Australia:

Fanged kangaroo research could shed light on extinction

October 16, 2017

Fanged kangaroos — an extinct family of small fanged Australian kangaroos — might have survived at least five million years longer than previously thought.

A University of Queensland-led study has found the species might have competed for resources with ancestors of modern kangaroos.

Research into species diversity, body size and the timing of extinction found that fanged kangaroos, previously thought to have become extinct about 15 million years ago, persisted to at least 10 million years ago.

The fanged kangaroos, including the species Balbaroo fangaroo, were about the size of a small wallaby.

UQ School of Earth and Environmental Sciences PhD student Kaylene Butler said the research involved Queensland Museum holdings of ancient fossil deposits from the Riversleigh World Heritage Area, where kangaroo fossil evidence goes back as far as 25 million years.

“Fanged kangaroos and the potential ancestors of modern kangaroos are both browsers — meaning they ate leaves — and they scurried, but did not hop,” Ms Butler said.

“Northern Queensland was predominantly covered in rainforest when these fanged kangaroos first appear in the fossil record.

“There is a lot of research to be done before we can be sure what their canine teeth were used for but some have suggested they were used to attract potential mates. We do know that despite their large canines they were herbivorous (plant eaters).

“We found that fanged kangaroos increased in body size right up until their extinction.”

Ms Butler said the research aimed to fill significant gaps in the understanding of kangaroo evolution, and new fossil finds were helping to bring ancient lineages into focus.

“Currently 21 macropod species are listed as vulnerable or endangered on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species,” she said.

She said understanding when and why kangaroos went extinct in the past could help with understanding what drove extinction of such animals.

“Currently, we can only hypothesise as to why balbarids became extinct — the original hypothesis related to events during a change in climate 15 million years ago but the balbarids persisted past that,” she said.

“This new finding of their persistence until 10 million years ago means something else must have been at play, such as being outcompeted by other species.”

Ms Butler last year discovered two new ancient species of kangaroo, Cookeroo bulwidarri and Cookeroo hortusensis.

She has worked on fossil material as part of her PhD research supervised by former UQ Robert Day Fellow Dr Kenny Travouillon, now of the Western Australian Museum, and UQ’s Dr Gilbert Price.