What prehistoric elephants ate


This video from the USA says about itself:

8 September 2015

Gomphotherium” is an extinct genus of proboscid that evolved in the Early Miocene of North America and lived about from 13.650—3.6 Ma.

The genus emigrated into Asia, Europe and Africa after a drop in sea level allowed them to cross over. It survived into the Pliocene, and its remains have been found in France, Germany, Austria, Kansas, Tennessee, Pakistan, Kenya and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

G. productum” is known from a 35-year-old male 251 cm tall weighing 4.6 t. Even larger is “G. steinheimense“, known from a complete 37-year-old male found in Mühldorf, Germany, it is 317 cm tall weighing 6.7 t. However, it had four tusks; two on the upper jaw and two on the elongated lower jaw. The lower tusks are parallel and shaped like a shovel and were probably used for digging up food from mud.

Unlike modern elephants, the upper tusks were covered by a layer of enamel. Compared to elephants, the skull was more elongated and low, indicating that the animal had a short trunk, rather like a tapir‘s. These animals probably lived in swamps or near lakes, using their tusks to dig or scrape up aquatic vegetation. In comparison to earlier proboscids, “Gomphotherium” had far fewer molars; the remaining ones had high ridges to expand their grinding surface.

From the University of Bristol in England:

Feeding habits of ancient elephants uncovered from grass fragments stuck in their teeth

May 17, 2018

A new study, led by scientists at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) in Beijing, China, including University of Bristol PhD student Zhang Hanwen, examined the feeding habits of ancient elephant relatives that inhabited Central Asia some 17 million years ago.

Professor Wang Shiqi from IVPP, the study’s senior author, said: “We found ancient elephant teeth in the Junggar Basin, in China’s far North West and they belong to two species, Gomphotherium connexum, and the larger G. steinheimense.”

Zhang Hanwen, from Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences, added: “Gomphotherium was most obviously different from modern elephants by its very long lower jaw that still had lower tusks.

“It also had a shorter, more elongate, barrel-like body shape compared to modern elephants. In essence, a small elephant with short legs.”

Professor Wang explained: “Our study of their evolution shows that Gomphotherium connexum became extinct, but G. steinheimense was part of the line that eventually gave rise to the modern elephants.”

To understand if feeding preference was playing a role in survival and extinction of these elephants, Dr Wu Yan of IVPP, the study’s lead author, analysed tiny remnants of plant matter found stuck to the fossil teeth, called phytoliths.

About 30 percent of the phytoliths extracted from the teeth of G. connexum are from soft foliage, whereas another 50 percent or so comes from grasses.

Dr Wu said: “Given that foliage naturally produces far less phytoliths than grasses, this indicates that G. connexum was mainly feeding on foliage, maybe a generalist feeder of all kinds of plant matter.

“When I examined the phytoliths extracted from the cheek teeth of G. steinheimense, I saw a very different pattern — grass phytoliths comprise roughly 85 percent of the total, suggesting this species was perhaps primarily a grazer 17 million years ago.”

To confirm these results, the team also examined tiny wear patterns on the fossil tooth surfaces called microwear.

Zhang Hanwen added: “Now things start to get interesting. When our team analysed fossil pollen samples associated with the sediments where the Gomphotherium teeth were found, we realised that woodlands were rapidly transforming into semi-arid savannahs when the two species lived together.

“By adopting a much more grass-based diet, G. steinheimense was apparently responding better to this habitat change than G. connexum.

“Gomphotherium had primitive dentition consisting of low molar crowns, and numerous conical cusps arranged in few transverse enamel ridges on the chewing surface of the teeth.

“This was adapted for feeding on leaves, the primitive diet. But later on, the lineage leading to modern elephants and the extinct mammoths evolved an increased number of enamel ridges, and these eventually became densely packed tooth plates for shearing tough vegetation.

“Our new evidence shows that the diet switch from leaves to grass happened long before the anatomical switch in tooth shape.”

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New Miocene fossil insectivore discovery


This 2012 video is called Miocene.

From the Asociación RUVID in Spain:

New 16 million-year-old insectivore species discovered

March 14, 2018

Palaeontologists Vicente D. Crespo, Francisco Javier Ruiz Sánchez and Plini Montoya, from the department of Botanics and Geology of the Universitat de València, and Marc Furió, from the Institut Català de Paleontologia, have discovered a new fossilised species of insectivore belonging to the unusual and extinct Plesiodimylus family. The identification of this group, related to the fauna that lived in Central Europe during the Miocene (16 million years ago), is based on the study of isolated teeth found in l’Alcora (Castellón), in the district of Araya.

This new species of insectivore, found in the palaeontological site Mas d’Antolino B, has been unveiled in the Historical Biology journal and has the scientific denomination Plesiodimylus ilercavonicus, in reference to the Iberian Ilercavones people, who inhabited part of what are the provinces of Castellón and Tarrragona today.

This family is defined by having teeth that protrude from the jaw, with thicker dental enamel than other mammals, as well as the presence of four molars (two in each jawbones, or one in each jawbone and then one more in each maxilla). These characteristics give them an unusual look — with overgrown teeth.

Furthermore, by studying the dentition of this species and specially with the type of wear suffered by the teeth’s enamel, one can surmise they would have fed mainly on gastropods, the most common group of mollusks, according to Crespo, Ruiz Sánchez and Montoya — also researchers for Valencia’s Natural History Museum -, and Marc Furió.

Until now, the finding of material from this animal group in Araya is the only one of its kind in the Iberian Peninsula, joining findings of other species from Central Europe such as some types of hamsters and other rodents, bats and insectivores, which reveal a phase of faunistic exchange between Iberia and Central Europe in the Lower Miocene.

In order to obtain the fossilised remains of these small mammals, a strenuous process to clean and sieve through tones of sediment was undertaken, as well as the examination of the residue obtained through this process. The studying of the specimens was performed with various techniques, including some derived from the use of electronic microscopy devices. The results of the study were unveiled at the 15th Annual Meeting of the European Association of Vertebrate Palaeontologists, held in Munich (Germany) during the summer of 2017.

In the Mas d’Antolino B palaeontological site, available since 2008, fossils of other species of shrews, squirrels, hamsters, dormice, bats or crocodiles have been unearthed, among others. These faunas, in a context of an environment similar to the current day rainforests, date back to the Aragonian age of mammals, also within the Miocene period. In this era there was a rainforest where Araya is currently located, with meadows, which would have been located near a great lake which reached most of today’s l’Alcora, Ribesalbes and Fanzara villages.

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?

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.