Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Andean Highlands In Chile Yield Ancient South American Armored Mammal Fossil

Date:
December 14, 2007
Source:
Case Western Reserve University
Summary:
A paleontological dig in Chile at an altitude of more than 14,000 feet in the Andes has yielded fossils of an 18-million-year-old armored mammal. It appears to be one of the most primitive members of a family of extinct mammals known as "glyptodonts," a group closely related to the modern-day armadillo.

Artist’s reconstruction of Parapropalaehoplophorus septentrionalis, which likely weighed 200 pounds.
Credit: Art by Velizar Simeonovski

A paleontological dig in Chile at an altitude of more than 14,000 feet in the Andes has yielded fossils of an 18-million-year-old armored mammal. It appears to be one of the most primitive members of a family of extinct mammals known as "glyptodonts," a group closely related to the modern-day armadillo.

Related Articles


Darin Croft from Case Western Reserve University, John Flynn from the American Museum of Natural History and Andre R. Wyss from the University of California Santa Barbara report the discovery and describe the mammal in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Researchers have named the animal, Parapropalaehoplophorus septentrionalis. They derived the first part of the name from the new mammal's resemblance to a slightly younger animal from Argentina (Propalaehoplophorus). Septentrionalis means northern in Latin.

The newly discovered animal lived in the early Miocene epoch about 18 million years ago and its family went extinct about the time humans arrived in the New World.

P. septentrionalis is a member of the glyptodonts, a large group of extinct animals that lived almost exclusively in South America. (A few species reached North America several million years ago when the two continents were reconnected by the Panamanian land bridge.) They are recognized for their thick shells of hardened and immovable bony plates and their large, grooved teeth. But unlike their modern day armadillo relatives (who have thinner shells with movable plates and smaller, simple teeth), these animals could grow to the size of a small car and weigh as much at two tons.

According to Croft, the new species was relatively small for a glyptodont and is the first one found in Chile. "It would have looked like a cross between a tortoise and an armadillo, but of course is much more closely related to armadillos," he said. He described P. septentrionalis as roughly the size of an African spurred tortoise, which is less than three feet long and weighs about 200 pounds.

The glyptodont was reconstructed from fossils of the jaw, shell, leg and backbone. These were compared with other known glyptodonts and with close glyptodont relatives. "These different skeletal parts all gave the same answer -- this was a new species of glyptodont that had a greater number of primitive features than any other species," said Croft.

"When we collected the fossil, we had no idea that it would turn out to be a new species. We knew that it would be an important specimen, given its completeness, but it was only after cleaning it and carefully studying it that we realized how unusual it was," Croft said.

The P. septentrionalis fossil was found during a field expedition in 2004 to the Salar de Surire region. This area has yielded the Chucal fauna, the collective name given to the 18 fossil animal species from the region. This fauna includes armored mammals (armadillos and their relatives), marsupials (relatives of the opossum), rodents, frogs and many ungulates (hoofed animals).

Finding the new species was no easy task as the researchers encountered the thin air at the high altitude, scarce water and temperatures that plummeted as night fell. But these are not the conditions under which the glyptodont lived. According to Flynn from the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, "Our studies and plant work elsewhere on the Altiplano suggest that the region was at much lower elevation when these fossils lived, giving us new insights into the timing and rate of uplift of the high Andes."

Flynn added that Chucal, at more than 14,000 feet above sea level, is the highest elevation vertebrate fossil site in the Western Hemisphere. The highest site in the world is much younger and is found in the Tibetan Plateau at an altitude of more than 15,000 feet.

Like other glyptodonts, P. septentrionalis probably spent a lot of its time grazing on ground vegetation in open areas, much like cows do today. This interpretation is supported by the presence of many other open habitat mammals at Chucal and the presence of plant fossils typical of such environments.

A detailed description of the new mammal is found in the article, "A New Basal Glyptodontid and other Xenarthra of the Early Miocene Chucal Fauna, Northern Chile." The research was undertaken in collaboration with the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago and the Museo Nacional de Historia Natural and the Consejo de Monumentos Nacionales in Santiago, Chile. Research support came from the National Geographic Society, the National Science Foundation, and FONDECYT Chile.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Case Western Reserve University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Case Western Reserve University. "Andean Highlands In Chile Yield Ancient South American Armored Mammal Fossil." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 December 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/12/071214002808.htm>.
Case Western Reserve University. (2007, December 14). Andean Highlands In Chile Yield Ancient South American Armored Mammal Fossil. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/12/071214002808.htm
Case Western Reserve University. "Andean Highlands In Chile Yield Ancient South American Armored Mammal Fossil." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/12/071214002808.htm (accessed October 26, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 24, 2014) Miniature deep sea animals discovered off the Australian coast almost three decades ago are puzzling scientists, who say the organisms have proved impossible to categorise. Academics at the Natural History of Denmark have appealed to the world scientific community for help, saying that further information on Dendrogramma enigmatica and Dendrogramma discoides could answer key evolutionary questions. Jim Drury has more. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Fossil Treasures at Risk in Morocco Desert Town

Fossil Treasures at Risk in Morocco Desert Town

AFP (Oct. 23, 2014) Hundreds of archeological jewels in and around the town of 30,000 people prompt geologists and archeologists to call the Erfoud area "the largest open air fossil museum in the world". Duration: 02:17 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Oldest Bone Ever Sequenced Shows Human/Neanderthal Mating

Oldest Bone Ever Sequenced Shows Human/Neanderthal Mating

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) A 45,000-year-old thighbone is showing when humans and neanderthals may have first interbred and revealing details about our origins. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Weird-Looking Dinosaur Solves 50-Year-Old Mystery

Weird-Looking Dinosaur Solves 50-Year-Old Mystery

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) You've probably seen some weird-looking dinosaurs, but have you ever seen one this weird? It's worth a look. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins