Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Ancient hedgehog and tapir once inhabited British Columbia

Date:
July 8, 2014
Source:
Society of Vertebrate Paleontology
Summary:
A new study describes an ancient hedgehog and tapir that lived in what is now Driftwood Canyon Provincial Park, British Columbia, approximately 52 million years ago. The ancient hedgehog is a species hitherto unknown to science.

This image shows the teeth (above and middle) and a side view of the lower jaw (below) of Heptodon, an ancient cousin to tapirs, found in early Eocene (52-million-year-old) rocks of northern British Columbia. This extinct mammal was about half the size of today's tapirs.
Credit: Jaelyn J. Eberle, Natalia Rybczynski, and David R. Greenwood

The Earth has experienced many dramatic changes in climate since the dinosaurs went extinct 66 million years ago. One of the warmest periods was the early Eocene Epoch, 50 to 53 million years ago. During this interval, North American mammal communities were quite distinct from those of today. This is illustrated by a study published in the latest issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology that describes an ancient hedgehog and tapir that lived in what is now Driftwood Canyon Provincial Park, British Columbia, some 52 million years ago.

Related Articles


"Within Canada, the only other fossil localities yielding mammals of similar age are from the Arctic, so these fossils from British Columbia help fill a significant geographic gap," said Dr. Natalia Rybczynski of the Canadian Museum of Nature, a co-author of the study. Other fossils of this age come from Wyoming and Colorado, some 2,700 miles to the south of the Arctic site of Ellesmere Island.

The ancient hedgehog is a species hitherto unknown to science. It is named Silvacola acares, which means "tiny forest dweller," since this minute hedgehog likely had a body length of only 2 to 2.5 inches. The delicate fossil jaw of Silvacola was not freed from the surrounding rock as is typical for fossils. Rather, it was scanned with an industrial, high resolution CT (computed tomography) scanner at Penn State University so it could be studied without risking damage to its tiny teeth. Modern hedgehogs and their relatives are restricted to Europe, Asia, and Africa.

The other mammal discovered at the site, Heptodon, is an ancient relative of modern tapirs, which resemble small rhinos with no horns and a short, mobile, trunk or proboscis.

"Heptodon was about half the size of today's tapirs, and it lacked the short trunk that occurs on later species and their living cousins. Based upon its teeth, it was probably a leaf-eater, which fits nicely with the rainforest environment indicated by the fossil plants at Driftwood Canyon," said Dr. Jaelyn Eberle of the University of Colorado, lead author of the study.

Most of the fossil-bearing rocks at Driftwood Canyon formed on the bottom of an ancient lake and are well-known for their exceptionally well-preserved leaves, insects, and fishes. But no fossils of mammals had ever before been identified at the site. The fieldwork that resulted in these discovered was supported by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

"The discovery in northern British Columbia of an early cousin to tapirs is intriguing because today's tapirs live in the tropics. Its occurrence, alongside a diversity of fossil plants that indicates a rainforest, supports an idea put forward by others that tapirs and their extinct kin are good indicators of dense forests and high precipitation," said Eberle.

Fossil plants from the site indicate the area seldom experienced freezing temperatures and probably had a climate similar to that of Portland, Oregon, located roughly 700 miles to the south.

"Driftwood Canyon is a window into a lost world -- an evolutionary experiment where palms grew beneath spruce trees and the insects included a mixture of Canadian and Australian species. Discovering mammals allows us to paint a more complete picture of this lost world," said Dr. David Greenwood of Brandon University, a co-author of the study. "The early Eocene is a time in the geological past that helps us understand how present day Canada came to have the temperate plants and animals it has today. However, it can also help us understand how the world may change as the global climate continues to warm."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Eberle, J.J., N. Rybczynski, and D.R. Greenwood. Early Eocene mammals from the Driftwood Creek beds, Driftwood Canyon Provincial Park, northern British Columbia. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 2014; 34 (4): 739-746

Cite This Page:

Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. "Ancient hedgehog and tapir once inhabited British Columbia." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 July 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140708165811.htm>.
Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. (2014, July 8). Ancient hedgehog and tapir once inhabited British Columbia. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140708165811.htm
Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. "Ancient hedgehog and tapir once inhabited British Columbia." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140708165811.htm (accessed November 21, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Fossils & Ruins News

Friday, November 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

US Returns Looted Artifacts to Thailand

US Returns Looted Artifacts to Thailand

AFP (Nov. 19, 2014) — The United States has returns over 500 vases, bowls, axes, and other ancient artifacts mostly from the Ban Chiang archaeological site which were illegally looted from Thailand decades ago. Duration: 01:13 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
How To Search Through Every Public Tweet Sent Since 2006

How To Search Through Every Public Tweet Sent Since 2006

Newsy (Nov. 19, 2014) — Twitter has announced improvements to its search index that allow users to search through every public tweet sent since its inception in 2006. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Professor Unlocks the Mystery of Paintings

Professor Unlocks the Mystery of Paintings

AP (Nov. 19, 2014) — Richard Johnson, a computer and engineering professor at Cornell University, is using technology to uncover mysteries about the age and authenticity of historic paintings by artists like Johannes Vermeer and Vincent Van Gogh. (Nov. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Napoleon Memorabilia to Be Sold at Auction

Napoleon Memorabilia to Be Sold at Auction

AFP (Nov. 14, 2014) — Napoleon's personal possessions, including his iconic cocked hat, are being auctioned off this weekend at a special sale at Fontainebleau Castle. Buyers are expected to bid hundreds of thousands or even millions of euros. Duration: 01:13 Video provided by AFP
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:

More Coverage


Fossils of Tiny, Unknown Hedgehog Identified

July 8, 2014 — Meet perhaps the tiniest hedgehog species ever: Silvacola acares. Its roughly 52-million-year-old fossil remains were recently identified by a team working in British ... read more

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