New Mammal Species Discovered From Fossilized Bones Digested By Crocodiles

first_img Extremely Rare, Two-Colored Lobster Found in MaineNew Species of Giant Flying Reptile Identified By Scientists Fossilized bones that appear to have been digested by crocodiles in the Cayman Islands have revealed three  previously undescribed extinct mammals that roamed the island more than 300 years ago.The ancient remains were collected from caves, sinkholes, and peat deposits on the Cayman Islands between the 1930s and the 1990s, and belonged to two large rodents Capromys pilorides lewisi and Geocapromys caymanensis, and a small shrew-like mammal named Nesophontes hemicingulus, according to research led by Zoological Society of London (ZSL), the American Museum of Natural History, and the New Mexico Museum of Natural History.The three mammals were unique to the Cayman Islands, existing nowhere else in the world. The scientists calculated that they would have probably become extinct around the 1700s, likely due to the arrival of European settlers and introduced mammals such as rats, cats, and dogs.Capromyid or hutia fossils that were found digested by Cuban crocodiles, found in Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, Grand Cayman. (Photo Credit: New Mexico Museum of Natural History)“Humans are almost certainly to blame for the extinction of these newly described mammals, and this represents just the tip of the iceberg for mammal extinctions in the Caribbean,” said Professor Samuel Turvey, Senior Research Fellow at ZSL’s Institute of Zoology, and co-author of the paper, which was published today in the Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History.Nearly all the mammal species that used to live on these tropical islands, including all of the native Caribbean sloths and monkeys, have recently disappeared, according to Turvey.The state of the teeth and bones for three of the specimens — enamel, dentine and cement were found to be missing from portions of the teeth that would be been exposed above the gum line — indicates that they were digested by crocodiles.Animals described as “coneys” and “little beasts like cats” by Sir Francis Drake when he visited the Cayman Islands in 1586 were probably the now-extinct and newly described rodents Capromys or Geocapromys, according to the scientists.Scientists uncovering the fossils more than 30 years ago in Grand Cayman Cave. (Photo Credit: NMMNH)“With only one possible sighting early in the course of European expansion into the New World, these small mammals from the Cayman Islands were complete unknowns until their fossils were discovered. Their closest relatives are Cuban; how and when did they manage a 250-km journey over open water?” asked Professor Ross MacPhee from the American Museum and a co-author of the study.One possibility is that the Cayman Islands may have originally been colonized by mammals carried across from nearby Cuba on floating rafts of vegetation, which in some cases have been documented to float as far as 62 miles in less than a week.Researchers hope the findings can help further conservation efforts focused on island species.“It’s vitally important to understand the factors responsible for past extinctions of island species, as many threatened species today are found on islands,” said Turvey.” The handful of Caribbean mammals that still exist today are the last survivors of a unique vanished world and represent some of the world’s top conservation priorities.”More on Geek.com:Scientists Discover Fossils of Oldest Known Frog in North AmericaSix New Species of ‘Superhero’ Catfish Discovered in Amazon‘Astonishing’ New Tarantula With Bizarre Horn on Its Back Discovered in Angola Stay on targetlast_img

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