Ancient primate fossil discovery in India


This 2014 video Lecture 16 Early Primate Evolution.

From the University of Southern California in the USA:

Newfound primate teeth take a big bite out of the evolutionary tree of life

The new species of primate from India is distantly related to the lemurs of Madagascar

February 28, 2017

Summary:

Fossil hunters have found part of an ancient primate jawbone related to lemurs — the primitive primate group distantly connected to monkeys, apes and humans, a researcher reports. Scientists named the new species Ramadapis sahnii and said that it existed 11 to 14 million years ago. It is a member of the ancient Sivaladapidae primate family, consumed leaves and was about the size of a house cat.

Fossil hunters have found part of an ancient primate jawbone related to lemurs — the primitive primate group distantly connected to monkeys, apes and humans, a USC researcher said.

Biren Patel, an associate professor of clinical cell and neurobiology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, has been digging for fossils in a paleontologically rich area of Kashmir in northern India for six years. Although paleontologists have scoured this region for a century, relics of small extinct primates were rarely found or studied.

Scientists named the new species Ramadapis sahnii and said that it existed 11 to 14 million years ago. It is a member of the ancient Sivaladapidae primate family, consumed leaves and was about the size of a house cat, said Patel, co-author of the new study in the Journal of Human Evolution.

“Among the primates, the most common ones in the Kashmir region are from a genus called Sivapithecus, which were ancestral forms of orangutans,” Patel said. “The fossil we found is from a different group on the primate family tree — one that is poorly known in Asia. We are filling an ecological and biogeographical gap that wasn’t really well documented. Every little step adds to the understanding of our human family tree because we’re also primates.”

The last primate found in the area was 38 years ago. So, in addition to being a new species, this is the first primate fossil found in the area in decades.

“In the past, people were interested in searching for big things — things they could show off to other people,” Patel said. “A lot of the small fossils were not on their radar.”

The inch-and-a-quarter partial mandible belongs to a primate weighing less than 11 pounds that had outlived its other adapidae cousins found in North America, Europe and Africa by millions of years.

“New primates are always a hot topic, and this one is the first of its kind from its area in Asia, which has significant consequences for understanding primate evolution in the Old World,” said Michael Habib, an assistant professor of clinical cell and neurobiology at the Keck School of Medicine who was not involved in the study.

The question that remains is how the ecosystem in northern India supported this species when its relatives elsewhere were disappearing or had already gone extinct. Future fieldwork and recovering more fossil primates will help answer this question.

“People want to know about human origins, but to fully understand human origins, you need to understand all of primate origins, including the lemurs and these Sivaladapids,” Patel said. “Lemurs and sivaladapids are sister groups to what we are — the anthropoids — and we are all primates.”

Researchers from Hunter College of the City University of New York, New York Consortium in Evolutionary Primatology, Arizona State University, Stony Brook University and Panjab University also contributed to this study, which was supported by the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, the Institute of Human Origins and funding from some of the involved universities.

Giant otter fossil discovery in China


This video from the USA says about itself:

23 January 2017

Dr. Denise Su, curator of paleobotany and paleoecology at The Cleveland Museum of Natural History, discusses the discovery of a new species of prehistoric otter, named Siamogale melilutra.

From Science News:

Ancient otter of unusual size unearthed in China

by Meghan Rosen

5:13pm, January 24, 2017

Fossils of a giant otter have emerged from the depths of an open-pit mine in China.

The crushed cranium, jaw bone and partial skeletons of at least three animals belong to a now-extinct species of otter that lived some 6.2 million years ago, scientists report January 23 in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology.

At roughly 50 kilograms in weight, the otter would have outclassed today’s giant otter, a river-dwelling South American mammal weighing in at around 34 kilograms. Scientists named the new species Siamogale melilutra, a nod to its unusual mix of badger and otter features. Melilutra is a mash-up of the Latin words for both creatures.

Badgers and otters both belong to a group of carnivorous animals called Mustelidae, but scientists have had trouble figuring out where to place extinct members in the mammalian family tree. (European badgers and modern otters share similar-looking teeth and skulls.) Still, Siamogale melilutra, however badgerlike, is indeed an otter, researchers concluded after CT scanning, reconstructing and analyzing the fossil skull.

Based on plant and animal fossils found near the collection site, scientists believe that the ancient otter probably lived in the shallow lake of a warm and humid swamp, lush with broad-leaved evergreens and grasses.

New snake species discovery in India


This video says about itself:

The Incredible Indian Snake Girl

Deadly cobra snakes are the best pals of this eight-year-old Indian girl even after being bitten by them a couple of times. Kajol Khan who wants to become a snake catcher like her father eats, sleeps and plays with six cobras all day long. She has even stopped going to school out of her love for the snakes. Kajol said: “I didn’t like the company of humans in the school so stopped going there five years ago.” See how little girl Kajol plays with the deadly cobra snakes, trains the snakes and handles the snakes.

Now, from venomous to non-venomous snakes.

Wallaceophis gujaratenesis. Photo by Zeeshan Mirza

From PLOS ONE:

A New Miocene-Divergent Lineage of Old World Racer Snake from India

March 2, 2016

Abstract

A distinctive early Miocene-divergent lineage of Old world racer snakes is described as a new genus and species based on three specimens collected from the western Indian state of Gujarat. Wallaceophis gen. et. gujaratenesis sp. nov. is a member of a clade of old world racers.

The monotypic genus represents a distinct lineage among old world racers is recovered as a sister taxa to Lytorhynchus based on ~3047bp of combined nuclear (cmos) and mitochondrial molecular data (cytb, ND4, 12s, 16s). The snake is distinct morphologically in having a unique dorsal scale reduction formula not reported from any known colubrid snake genus. Uncorrected pairwise sequence divergence for nuclear gene cmos between Wallaceophis gen. et. gujaratenesis sp. nov. other members of the clade containing old world racers and whip snakes is 21–36%.

From IANS news in India:

Mumbai, March 3: A team of young Indian researchers and naturalists have recently discovered a new snake genus and species in Gujarat, it was announced here on Thursday.

The snake genus has been named Wallaceophis in honour of the legendary 19th century British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913), considered the father of biogeography, while the snake species has been named gujaratenisis to commemorate the western Indian state where it was discovered.

Ancestors of New Zealand bats’ fossil discovery


This video says about itself:

Suzanne Hand: Miocene Fossils Reveal Ancient Roots for New Zealand’s Endemic Mystacina (Chiroptera)

26 June 2015

Dr Hand talks to Sciencevideos.org about her recent PLOS ONE publication: Miocene Fossils Reveal Ancient Roots for New Zealand’s Endemic Mystacina (Chiroptera) and Its Rainforest Habitat.

Giraffe ancestry, new research


This video is about giraffes in Africa.

From Science journal:

Odd creature was ancient ancestor of today’s giraffes

By Sid Perkins

24 November 2015 7:15 pm

A distant relative of today’s giraffes was a bit of an odd creature: It was about the size of a bull moose, but it had a long neck that could stretch both up to eat tree leaves and down to eat grass. That’s the conclusion of the first comprehensive analysis of a complete set of fossilized neck bones from the animal, known as Samotherium major. Samotherium, which lived in the open woodlands of Eurasia about 7 million years ago, had a neck about 1 meter long—about half the length of that of today’s giraffes. (And like the vast majority of mammals, from tiny mice to towering giraffes, it had seven neck vertebrae.)

Some scientists have long presumed today’s giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis), which includes a handful of subspecies scattered throughout sub-Saharan Africa, evolved from an animal that looked like its close cousin the okapi (Okapia johnstoni), which lives in the tropical forests of central Africa. The team’s analyses of bones from all three animals bolster that notion—and not just because the neck bones are of a length between the giraffe’s and the okapi’s. For example, ridges and other features that are prominent on the okapi’s neck bones and missing entirely on the giraffe’s are typically present but smaller on Samotherium’s, the researchers report online today in Royal Society Open Science.

See also here.

Mysterious skin disease make giraffes vulnerable to lions: here.

Fossil seal discovered in South America


Figure 6, from Valenzuela-Toro et al. (2015) shows the relative size of Australophoca changorum (number 12 in the figure) to other assemblages of fossil and living pinnipeds, from other places (based on latitude) and geologic times

This picture shows the relative size of newly discovered fossil seal Australophoca changorum (number 12 in the figure) to other fossil and living pinnipeds (seal relatives), from other places (based on latitude) and geologic times.

From Pyenson Lab:

11/20/2015

by Ana Valenzuela-Toro

Australophoca, a new dwarf fossil seal from South America

Today, my South American colleagues and I announce the publication of a new species of fossil seal from the western coast of South America. The name of the new genus and species, Australophoca changorum, reflects its austral origin from Chile and Peru, and honors the Changos, a coastal tribe of indigenous people who lived in the Atacama (from northern Chile to southern Peru), and were short in stature. The description, published in Papers in Palaeontology, provides a scientific name for a dwarf species of true seal from the late Miocene Bahía Inglesa and Pisco formations of Chile and Peru, respectively. One of the paratype specimens that we identified was originally recovered from Cerro Ballena in the Atacama Region of Chile; the type specimen is USNM 438707.

This tiny fossil seal was smaller than a living harbor seal (Phoca vitulina), and ranks among the smallest true seals ever described, including both living and fossil ones. Interestingly, in the past ~11-3 million years, the western coast of South America seems to have been only occupied by true seals (or phocids), a fact that stands in stark difference to what we know about pinniped communities from other parts of the world, and other time[s] in the geologic record. This unusual feature of the pinniped community in western South America fits into a broader pattern of ecological turnover seen in the fossil record of marine consumers, including pinnipeds and seabirds, throughout the Southern Hemisphere, since the late Miocene.

Fossil bat discovery in New Zealand


This video says about itself:

27 June 2012

On Little Barrier Island in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf you can get a small glimpse of how New Zealand would have looked before humans arrived around 1000 years ago. Short-tailed bats (Mystacina tuberculata) are a threatened species of bat found only in NZ that are uniquely adapted for crawling on the ground… which makes them ideal pollinators for flowers that are arranged in large clusters.

From Business Insider Australia:

Scientists have discovered a giant dinosaur bat that walked on four legs

Chris Pash

17 June 2015

Fossils of a bat species which walked on four limbs and was three times larger than today’s average bat have been discovered in New Zealand.

The remains were found near Central Otago in sediment left over from a prehistoric body of water known as Lake Manuherikia which was part of warmer subtropical rainforest during the early Miocene era between 16 million and 19 million years ago

The species, Mystacina miocenalis, described in the journal PLOS ONE, is related to another bat, Mystacina tuberculata, which still lives in New Zealand’s old growth forests.

“Our discovery shows for the first time that Mystacina bats have been present in New Zealand for upwards of 16 million years, residing in habitats with very similar plant life and food sources,” says lead author and vertebrate palaeontologist, Suzanne Hand from the University of New South Wales.

New Zealand’s only native terrestrial mammals are three species of bat, including two belonging to the Mystacina genus – one of which was last sighted in the 1960s.

They are known as burrowing bats because they forage on the ground under leaf-litter and snow, as well as in the air, scuttling on their wrists and backward-facing feet, while keeping their wings tightly furled.

“This helps us understand the capacity of bats to establish populations on islands and the climatic conditions required for this to happen,” says Associate Professor Hand.

Bats are important pollinators and seed dispersers that keep forests healthy. Understanding the connectivity between the bat faunas of different landmasses is important for evaluating biosecurity threats and conservation priorities for fragile island ecosystems.”

The new species has similar teeth to its contemporary relative, suggesting a broad diet that included nectar, pollen and fruit, as well as insects and spiders.

At an estimated 40 grams, the fossil bat is roughly three times heavier than its living cousin.