The origins of two weird Darwinian creatures that the scientist considered to be the most abnormal animals ever found, had remained a riddle for almost 180 years. However, things are about to change as scientists say they’ve uncovered the evolutionary history of the two strange animals — an ancient horse-like creature with a long nose, and a rhinoceros-molded creature with a head similar to that of a hippopotamus.
The new study discovered that these ungulates (hooved creatures) which used to wander in South America originated in an ancient group of mammals dubbed the condylarths related to the perissodactyls, which incorporates tapirs, horses and rhinos.
Popular for first hypothesizing evolution, Darwin believed that these huge warm blooded animals may help him with his research in species development, according to one of the authors of the study Duncan Porter. The researcher who is a professor emeritus of biological sciences at Virginia Tech noted:
“As he looked at other living mammals, he felt that they were related to those, but they were much smaller. And he wondered how that could have happened.”
Darwin thought that the rhino-like Toxodon’s body may mean it was a sibling of the rhinoceros. On the other hand, possibly its head, which looked like a hippo’s, showed that Toxodon was a hippopotamus relative, he construed. Then again, Darwin speculated, it may be connected with an armadillo. The second species, Macrauchenia, with its long neck, may be a realative of the guanaco, llama or a camel.
Consequently, throughout the years, researchers have wrangled about the accurate groups of these species.
Ross MacPhee, curator in the Department of Mammalogy at the American Museum of Natural History in New York detailed:|
“The problem is not a lack of fossils — there are thousands of South American-native ungulate fossils in museums in many countries — nor is it a lack of ideas and possible explanations. Rather, the fundamental problem is that South American-native ungulates display detailed resemblances to a whole range of non-South American groups.”
Subsequently. the scientists screened bone specimens. Even after DNA has degraded , collagen can be taken out from bone. However its still challenging to gather data from it. Out of the 45 samples the group examined for collagen, just five uncovered any protein grouping data. The scientists then contrasted this and collagen DNA from an extensive variety of living mammals and a couple of extinct ones.
In each examination, the scientists found that both of the long-gone creatures were ralated to the Perissodactyls, at long last setting solving the puzzle.
MacPhee trusts that this approach for finding out the developmental history of extinct creatures will become better in the following decades. Right now, analysts can get sequence data from fossil vertebrates that were living even 4 million years ago. Given how rapidly methods improve, this time line ought to be pushed back even to 10 million years, MacPhee reported.
There are additionally extra bone proteins that the analysts may have the capacity to screen. One of the issues, in any case, is that if researchers choose to test another bone protein, there will be no similar database with which to work.
Image Source: International Business Times