Ice Age Texas, USA manatees?


This 2018 video is called Manatees Are the “Sea Cows” of the Coasts | National Geographic Wild.

From the University of Texas at Austin in the USA:

Ice Age manatees may have called Texas home

October 1, 2020

Manatees don’t live year-round in Texas, but these gentle, slow-moving sea cows are known to occasionally visit, swimming in for a “summer vacation” from Florida and Mexico and returning to warmer waters for the winter.

Research led by The University of Texas at Austin has found fossil evidence for manatees along the Texas coast dating back to the most recent ice age. The discovery raises questions about whether manatees have been making the visit for thousands of years, or if an ancient population of ice age manatees once called Texas home somewhere between 11,000 and 240,000 years ago.

The findings were published in Palaeontologia Electronica.

“This was an unexpected thing for me because I don’t think about manatees being on the Texas coast today,” said lead author Christopher Bell, a professor at the UT Jackson School of Geosciences. “But they’re here. They’re just not well known.”

The paper co-authors are Sam Houston State University Natural History Collections curator William Godwin, SHSU alumna Kelsey Jenkins (now a graduate student at Yale University), and SHSU Professor Patrick Lewis.

The eight fossils described in the paper include manatee jawbones and rib fragments from the Pleistocene, the geological epoch of the last ice age. Most of the bones were collected from McFaddin Beach near Port Arthur and Caplen Beach near Galveston during the past 50 years by amateur fossil collectors who donated their finds to the SHSU collections.

“We have them from one decade to another, so we know it’s not from some old manatee that washed up, and we have them from different places,” Godwin said. “All these lines of evidence support that manatee bones were coming up in a constant way.”

The Jackson Museum of Earth History at UT holds two of the specimens.

A lower jawbone fossil, which was donated to the SHSU collections by amateur collector Joe Liggio, jumpstarted the research.

“I decided my collection would be better served in a museum,” Liggio said. “The manatee jaw was one of many unidentified bones in my collection.”

Manatee jawbones have a distinct S-shaped curve that immediately caught Godwin’s eye. But Godwin said he was met with skepticism when he sought other manatee fossils for comparison. He recalls reaching out to a fossil seller who told him point-blank “there are no Pleistocene manatees in Texas.”

But examination of the fossils by Bell and Lewis proved otherwise. The bones belonged to the same species of manatee that visits the Texas coast today, Trichechus manatus. An upper jawbone donated by U.S. Rep. Brian Babin was found to belong to an extinct form of the manatee, Trichechus manatus bakerorum.

The age of the manatee fossils is based on their association with better-known ice age fossils and paleo-indian artifacts that have been found on the same beaches.

It’s assumed that the cooler ice age climate would have made Texas waters even less hospitable to manatees than they are today. But the fact that manatees were in Texas — whether as visitors or residents — raises questions about the ancient environment and ancient manatees, Bell said. Either the coastal climate was warmer than is generally thought, or ice age manatees were more resilient to cooler temperatures than manatees of today.

The Texas coast stretched much farther into the Gulf of Mexico and hosted wider river outlets during the ice age than it does now, said Jackson School Professor David Mohrig, who was not part of the research team.

“Subsurface imaging of the now flooded modern continental shelf reveals both a greater number of coastal embayments and the presence of significantly wider channels during ice age times,” said Mohrig, an expert on how sedimentary landscapes evolve.

If there was a population of ice age manatees in Texas, it’s plausible that they would have rode out winters in these warmer river outlets, like how they do today in Florida and Mexico.

Intact Pleistocene cave bear discovered in Siberia


This 14 September 2020 video says about itself:

Another Ice mummy has been uncovered in Russia. An adult cave bear and cub have been found fully intact with all original organs in the place they were when the critter died!

From the North-Eastern Federal University in Yakutsk in Siberia, by Anna Baisakova:

NEFU scientists to study cave bear found on the Lyakhovsky Islands

First-ever preserved grown up cave bear – even its nose is intact – unearthed on the Arctic island

Separately at least one preserved carcass of a cave bear cub found on the mainland of Yakutia, with scientists hopeful of obtaining its DNA.

More details of the finds are to be announced soon.

Until now only the bones of cave bears have been discovered.

The new finds are of ‘world importance’, according to one of Russia’s leading experts on extinct Ice Age species.

Scientist Lena Grigorieva said of the island discovery of the adult beast: ‘Today this is the first and only find of its kind – a whole bear carcass with soft tissues. ‘It is completely preserved, with all internal organs in place including even its nose. «Previously, only skulls and bones were found. This find is of great importance for the whole world».

The remains were found by reindeer herders on the island and the remains will be analysed by scientists at the North-Eastern Federal University (NEFU) in Yakutsk, which is at the forefront of research into extinct woolly mammoths and rhinos.

Russian and foreign colleagues will be invited to join the study.

The cave bear (Ursus spelaeus) is a prehistoric species or subspecies that lived in Eurasia in the Middle and Late Pleistocene period and became extinct about 15,000 years ago.

Preliminary analysis suggests the bear to be between 22,000 and 39,500 years old.

«It is necessary to carry out radiocarbon analysis to determine the precise age of the bear,» said senior researcher Maxim Cheprasov from the Mammoth Museum laboratory in Yakutsk. The finder transferred the right to research to the scientists of NEFU, he said.

Unique discovery of perfectly preserved extinct cave bear showing its teeth after up to 39,000 years.

Bolshoy Lyakhovsky Island, or Great Lyakhovsky, is the largest of the Lyakhovsky Islands belonging to the New Siberian Islands archipelago between the Laptev Sea and the East Siberian Sea in northern Russia.

A scientific programme for its comprehensive study will be prepared. We will have to study the carcass of a bear using all modern scientific research methods – molecular genetic, cellular, microbiological and others.

«The research is planned on as large a scale as in the study of the famous Malolyakhovsky mammoth,» said Dr Grigorieva, leading researcher of the International Centre for Collective Use of Molecular Paleontology at the NEFU’s Institute of Applied Ecology of the North.

Recent years have seen major discoveries of mammoths, woolly rhinos, Ice Age foal, several puppies and Cave Lion cubs as the permafrost melts in Siberia.

Reference:

The International Center for Collective Use “Molecular Paleontology” was opened in March 2015 on the basis of the laboratory “Mammoth Museum named after P.A. Lazarev” RIAEN as a separate structural unit of the institute. The opening of the ICCU became possible due to the agreement on scientific cooperation on the project “Revival of the mammoth and other fossil animals”, concluded between NEFU and the South Korean Sooam Biotechnological Institute on September 23, 2012. One of the priority areas of cooperation is joint research in the field of studying the genome of ancient animals.

What Pleistocene Ethiopian hominins, herbivores ate


This 24 August 2019 video says about itself:

Paranthropus Evolution

2 million years ago an upright walking group of hominins roamed Africa. Not our ancestors but Paranthropus. Who were they? How are we related? Did they give us herpes? Also, other questions!

This 9 September 2019 video says about itself:

Follow up to my Paranthropus Evolution video where I take a deeper dive into your best comments and continue the debate.

From George Washington University in the USA:

Fossilized teeth reveal dietary shifts in ancient herbivores and hominins

August 25, 2020

A new study published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences documents dietary shifts in herbivores that lived between 1-3 million years ago in Ethiopia’s Lower Omo Valley. The research team, led by Enquye Negash, a postdoctoral researcher in the George Washington University Center for the Advanced Study of Human Paleobiology, examined stable isotopes in the fossilized teeth of herbivores such as antelopes and pigs and found a shift away from C3-derived foods, characteristic of woody vegetation, to C4-derived foods, representative of grasses and sedges. The shift happened at two distinct time periods, approximately 2.7 million years ago and 2 million years ago, when the environment of the Lower Omo Valley was transitioning to open savanna.

The study, “Dietary trends in herbivores from the Shungura Formation, southwestern Ethiopia,” served as a comparative framework to an associated hominin diet study, also published this week, of which Negash was a co-author. The associated study, “Isotopic evidence for the timing of the dietary shift towards C4 foods in eastern African Paranthropus,” examined carbon isotope data from the fossilized tooth enamel of Paranthropus boisei, a nonancestral hominin relative. Led by Jonathan Wynn, now a program director in the National Science Foundation’s division of Earth sciences, the research team behind that paper found a profound shift toward the consumption of C4-derived foods approximately 2.37 million years ago, which preceded a morphological shift of P. boisei’s skull and jaw. Given the direct evidence provided by the abundant, well-dated fossilized teeth and their chemical composition, the new findings suggest behavioral dietary changes can precede apparent morphological adaptations to new foods.

Enquye Negash said, “Major dietary shifts that are observed in our study reflect the response of the herbivores to major ecological and environmental changes during this time. This allowed us to better understand the environmental context of similar dietary changes in hominins.”

“Although we’re interested in how the diets of our immediate and distant ancestors evolved to produce our modern human diet, it is very important to consider these hominins as a small part of an ecosystem that included other plant and animal species that responded to changing environments in an interconnected way,” said Jonathan Wynn.

This work was supported by National Science Foundation (NSF) award 1252157. Wynn was also supported by an NSF Independent Research and Development (IR/D) program.

Big monkey, short-necked giraffe lived in Pleistocene Europe


This 2016 video says about itself:

This is a large skull fossil of the European Cave Bear Ursus spelaeus (Order Carnivora, Family Ursidae). This specimen of Cave Bear (Ursus spelaeus) was a species of bear that lived in Romania during the Pleistocene Period dating 200,000 to 20,000 years ago, going extinct at the beginning of the last glacial maximum.

Because fossils of this species were mostly found in caves, the name Cave Bear and the scientific name spelaeus were coined. It is thought that the Cave Bear spent considerable amount of its existence in caves, which led to the accumulation of whole layers of bones, almost entirely those of cave bears, in many caves.

Ursus spelaeus has been hypothesized to be the descendent of the plio-pleistocene Etruscan bear (Ursus etruscus) through the Deninger’s bear (Ursus deningeri) of the Pleistocene about a half a million years ago, although some studies show that this species split largely before the lineages of brown bears around 1.2 million years ago.

This is a large and eye-catching specimen, measuring 21″ L x 11″ H x 11″ W, and has been carefully prepared by a professional for a showcase display.

From the University of Arkansas in the USA:

Fossils reveal diversity of animal life roaming Europe 2 million years ago

Revival of research at significant paleontological site in Eastern Europe includes focus on when humans migrated to Eurasia from Africa

August 24, 2020

A re-analysis of fossils from one of Europe’s most significant paleontological sites reveals a wide diversity of animal species, including a large terrestrial monkey, short-necked giraffe, rhinos and saber-toothed cats.

These and other species roamed the open grasslands of Eastern Europe during the early Pleistocene, approximately 2 million years ago. Ultimately, the researchers hope the fossils will provide clues about how and when early humans migrated to Eurasia from Africa. Reconstructions of past environments like this also could help researchers better understand future climate change.

“My colleagues and I are excited to draw attention back to the fossil site of Grăunceanu and the fossil potential of the Olteţ River Valley of Romania,” said Claire Terhune, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Arkansas. “It’s such a diverse faunal community. We found multiple animals that hadn’t been clearly identified in the area before, and many that are no longer found in Europe at all. Of course, we think these findings alone are interesting, but they also have important implications for early humans moving into the continent at that time.”

About 124 miles west of the Romanian capital of Bucharest, the Olteţ River Valley, including the important site of Grăunceanu, is one of Eastern Europe’s richest fossil deposits. Many Olteţ Valley fossil sites, including Grăunceanu, were discovered in the 1960s after landslides caused in part by deforestation due to increased agricultural activity in the area.

Archeologists and paleontologists from the Emil Racoviţă Institute of Speleology in Bucharest excavated the sites soon after they were discovered. Fossils were recovered and stored at the institute, and scholarly publications about the sites flourished in the 1970s and 1980s. But interest in these fossils and sites waned over the past 20 to 30 years, in part because many records of the excavations and fossils were lost.

Since 2012, the international team, including Terhune and researchers from Romania, the United States, Sweden and France, has focused on this important fossil region. Their work has included extensive identification of fossils at the institute and additional fieldwork.

In addition to the species mentioned above, the researchers identified fossil remains of animals similar to modern-day moose, bison, deer, horse, ostrich, pig and many others. They also identified a fossil species of pangolin, which were thought to have existed in Europe during the early Pleistocene but had not been solidly confirmed until now. Today, pangolins, which look like the combination of an armadillo and anteater and are among the most trafficked animals in the world, are found only in Asia and Africa.

‘Global warming killed Ice Age woolly rhinos’


This 2019 video says about itself:

The History of Climate Cycles (and the Woolly Rhino) Explained

Throughout the Pleistocene Epoch, the range of the woolly rhino grew and shrank in sync with global climate. So what caused the climate — and the range of the woolly rhino — to cycle back and forth between such extremes?

From ScienceDaily:

Ancient genomes suggest woolly rhinos went extinct due to climate change, not overhunting

August 13, 2020

Summary: Although overhunting led to the demise of some prehistoric megafauna after the last ice age, a new study found that the extinction of the woolly rhinoceros may have been caused by climate change. By sequencing ancient DNA from 14 woolly rhinos, researchers found that their population remained stable and diverse until only a few thousand years before it disappeared from Siberia, when temperatures likely rose too high.

The extinction of prehistoric megafauna like the woolly mammoth, cave lion, and woolly rhinoceros at the end of the last ice age has often been attributed to the spread of early humans across the globe. Although overhunting led to the demise of some species, a study appearing August 13 in the journal Current Biology found that the extinction of the woolly rhinoceros may have had a different cause: climate change. By sequencing ancient DNA from 14 of these megaherbivores, researchers found that the woolly rhinoceros population remained stable and diverse until only a few thousand years before it disappeared from Siberia, when temperatures likely rose too high for the cold-adapted species.

“It was initially thought that humans appeared in northeastern Siberia fourteen or fifteen thousand years ago, around when the woolly rhinoceros went extinct. But recently, there have been several discoveries of much older human occupation sites, the most famous of which is around thirty thousand years old,” says senior author Love Dalén, a professor of evolutionary genetics at the Centre for Palaeogenetics, a joint venture between Stockholm University and the Swedish Museum of Natural History. “So, the decline towards extinction of the woolly rhinoceros doesn’t coincide so much with the first appearance of humans in the region. If anything, we actually see something looking a bit like an increase in population size during this period.”

To learn about the size and stability of the woolly rhinoceros population in Siberia, the researchers studied the DNA from tissue, bone, and hair samples of 14 individuals. “We sequenced a complete nuclear genome to look back in time and estimate population sizes, and we also sequenced fourteen mitochondrial genomes to estimate the female effective population sizes,” says co-first author Edana Lord, a PhD student at the Centre for Palaeogenetics.

By looking at the heterozygosity, or genetic diversity, of these genomes, the researchers were able to estimate the woolly rhino populations for tens of thousands of years before their extinction. “We examined changes in population size and estimated inbreeding,” says co-first author Nicolas Dussex, a postdoctoral researcher at the Centre for Palaeogenetics. “We found that after an increase in population size at the start of a cold period some 29,000 years ago, the woolly rhino population size remained constant and that at this time, inbreeding was low.”

This stability lasted until well after humans began living in Siberia, contrasting the declines that would be expected if the woolly rhinos went extinct due to hunting. “That’s the interesting thing,” says Lord. “We actually don’t see a decrease in population size after 29,000 years ago. The data we looked at only goes up to 18,500 years ago, which is approximately 4,500 years before their extinction, so it implies that they declined sometime in that gap.”

The DNA data also revealed genetic mutations that helped the woolly rhinoceros adapt to colder weather. One of these mutations, a type of receptor in the skin for sensing warm and cold temperatures, has also been found in woolly mammoths. Adaptations like this suggest the woolly rhinoceros, which was particularly suited to the frigid northeast Siberian climate, may have declined due to the heat of a brief warming period, known as the Bølling-Allerød interstadial, that coincided with their extinction towards the end of the last ice age.

“We’re coming away from the idea of humans taking over everything as soon as they come into an environment, and instead elucidating the role of climate in megafaunal extinctions,” says Lord. “Although we can’t rule out human involvement, we suggest that the woolly rhinoceros’ extinction was more likely related to climate.”

The researchers hope to study the DNA of additional woolly rhinoceroses that lived in that crucial 4,500-year gap between the last genome they sequenced and their extinction. “What we want to do now is to try to get more genome sequences from rhinos that are between eighteen and fourteen thousand years old, because at some point, surely they must decline,” says Dalén. The researchers are also looking at other cold-adapted megafauna to see what further effects the warming, unstable climate had. “We know the climate changed a lot, but the question is: how much were different animals affected, and what do they have in common?”

This work was supported by FORMAS, the Swiss National Science Foundation, the Carl Tryggers Foundation, the European Research Council Consolidator Award, and the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation.

Foxes ate Ice Age humans´ leftovers


This video from California in the USA says about itself:

Recently, a convergence of views has led to the notion that the study of animal domestication may tell us something not only about our relationship with domesticated species since perhaps at least the Pleistocene, but also about our own evolution as a species in the more distant past. This symposium brings together scientists from a variety of research backgrounds to examine these views and to elucidate further the possible role of domestication in human evolution.

Robert Wayne (UCLA) begins with a discussion about The Transformation of Wolf to Dog: History, Traits, and Genetics, followed by Anna Kukekova (Univ of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) on Fox Domestication and Genetics of Complex Behaviors, and Robert Franciscus (Univ of Iowa) on Craniofacial Feminization in Canine and Human Evolution. Recorded on 10/10/2014.

From PLOS:

Foxes have been eating humans’ leftovers for 42,000 years

Ancient fox diets might be good indicators of human impact on past ecosystems

July 22, 2020

The diets of ancient foxes were influenced by humans, and these small carnivores might be tracers of human activity over time, according to a study published July 22, 2020 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Chris Baumann of the University of Tübingen, Germany and colleagues.

Foxes love leftovers. In the wild, foxes regularly feed on scraps left behind by larger predators like bears and wolves, but the closer foxes live to human civilization, the more of their diet is made up of foods that humans leave behind. In this study, Baumann and colleagues hypothesized that if this commensal relationship goes back to ancient times, then foxes might be useful indicators of human impact in the past.

The authors compared ratios of Carbon and Nitrogen isotopes between the remains of various herbivores, large carnivores, and red and Arctic foxes from several archaeological sites in southwest Germany dating to the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic. At sites older than 42,000 years, when Neanderthals sparsely occupied the region, fox diets were similar to their local large carnivores. But in the younger sites, as Homo sapiens became common in the area, foxes developed a more unique diet consisting largely of reindeer, which are too big for foxes to hunt but which are known to have been important game for ancient humans of the time.

These results suggest that during the Upper Palaeolithic, these foxes made a shift from feeding on scraps left by local large predators to eating food left behind by humans. This indicates that foxes’ reliance on human food goes back a good 42,000 years. The authors propose that, with further studies investigating this fox-human relationship, ancient fox diets may be useful indicators of human impact on ecosystems over time.

The authors add: “Dietary reconstructions of ice-age foxes have shown that early modern humans had an influence on the local ecosystem as early as 40,000 years ago. The more humans populated a particular region, the more the foxes adapted to them.”

Extinct giant dormouse, new research


An artist’s impression of the giant dormouse Leithia melitensis (left) and its nearest living relative the garden dormouse (right). Image credit: James Sadler, University of York

From the University of York in England:

Skull of two million year-old giant dormouse reconstructed

July 9, 2020

A PhD student has produced the first digital reconstruction of the skull of a gigantic dormouse, which roamed the island of Sicily around two million years ago.

In a new study, the student from Hull York Medical School, has digitally pieced together fossilised fragments from five giant dormouse skulls to reconstruct the first known complete skull of the species.

The researchers estimate that the enormous long-extinct rodent was roughly the size of a cat, making it the largest species of dormouse ever identified.

The digitally reconstructed skull is 10 cm long — the length of the entire body and tail of many types of modern dormouse.

PhD student Jesse Hennekam said: “Having only a few fossilised pieces of broken skulls available made it difficult to study this fascinating animal accurately. This new reconstruction gives us a much better understanding of what the giant dormouse may have looked like and how it may have lived.”

The enormous prehistoric dormouse is an example of island gigantism — a biological phenomenon in which the body size of an animal isolated on an island increases dramatically.

The palaeontological record shows that many weird and wonderful creatures once roamed the Italian islands. Alongside the giant dormouse, Sicily was also home to giant swans, giant owls and dwarf elephants.

Jesse’s PhD supervisor, Dr Philip Cox from the Department of Archaeology at the University of York and Hull York Medical School, said: “While island dwarfism is relatively well understood, as with limited resources on an island, animals may need to shrink to survive, the causes of gigantism are less obvious.

“Perhaps, with fewer terrestrial predators, larger animals are able to survive as there is less need for hiding in small spaces, or it could be a case of co-evolution with predatory birds where rodents get bigger to make them less vulnerable to being scooped up in talons.”

Jesse spotted the fossilised fragments of skull during a research visit to the Palermo Museum in Italy, where a segment of rock from the floor of a small cave, discovered during the construction of a motorway in northwest Sicily in the 1970s, was on display.

“I noticed what I thought were fragments of skull from an extinct species embedded in one of the cave floor segments,” Jesse said. “We arranged for the segment to be sent to Basel, Switzerland for microCT scanning and the resulting scans revealed five fragmented skulls of giant dormice present within the rock.”

The reconstruction is likely to play an important role in future research directed at improving understanding of why some small animals evolve larger body sizes on islands, the researchers say.

“The reconstructed skull gives us a better sense of whether the giant dormouse would have looked similar to its normal-sized counterparts or whether its physical appearance would have been influenced by adaptations to a specific environment,” Jesse explains.

“For example, if we look at the largest living rodent — the capybara — we can see that it has expanded in size on a different trajectory to other species in the same family.”

Jesse is also using biomechanical modelling to understand the feeding habits of the giant dormouse.

“At that size, it is possible that it may have had a very different diet to its smaller relatives,” he adds.

Prehistoric bird sculpture discovery in China


The newly discovered bird sculpture, photo  Li et al | Plos One

From PLOS ONE, 10 June 2020:

A Paleolithic bird figurine from the Lingjing site, Henan, China

Abstract

The recent identification of cave paintings dated to 42–40 ka BP in Borneo and Sulawesi highlights the antiquity of painted representations in this region. However, no instances of three-dimensional portable art, well attested in Europe since at least 40 ka BP, were documented thus far in East Asia prior to the Neolithic.

Here, we report the discovery of an exceptionally well-preserved miniature carving of a standing bird from the site of Lingjing, Henan, China. Microscopic and microtomographic analyses of the figurine and the study of bone fragments from the same context reveal the object was made of bone blackened by heating and carefully carved with four techniques that left diagnostic traces on the entire surface of the object.

Critical analysis of the site’s research history and stratigraphy, the cultural remains associated with the figurine and those recovered from the other archeological layers, as well as twenty-eight radiometric ages obtained on associated archeological items, including one provided by a bone fragment worked with the same technique recorded on the object, suggest a Late Paleolithic origin for the carving, with a probable age estimated to 13,500 years old.

The carving, which predates previously known comparable instances from this region by 8,500 years, demonstrates that three-dimensional avian representations were part of East Asian Late Pleistocene cultural repertoires and identifies technological and stylistic peculiarities distinguishing this newly discovered art tradition from previous and contemporary examples found in Western Europe and Siberia.

See also here.

Mammoth discovery in Mexico


This 28 May 2020 video says about itself:

It is a discovery that could shed some light on the hunting habits of prehistoric communities in Mexico.

Archaeologists near Mexico City have discovered the remains of about 60 mammoths and other species.

Al Jazeera’s Sara Khairat reports.

Extinct humans Homo naledi, video


This 21 May 2020 video from Britain says about itself:

Our incredible origins: The astonishing tale of Homo naledi

Lee Berger helped unearth stunning fossils of ancient human relatives in Africa. He explains why we need to rewrite our family tree.