Indian fossils shed light on the origins of horses, rhinos and …


New Delhi, November 8th

Scientists have examined over 350 fossils of hoofed mammals – a group that includes horses, rhinos and tapirs – and suggest they came from or near what is now India.

The 15-year study, published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, summarizes a nearly complete picture of the skeletal anatomy of hoofed mammals that lived on the Indian subcontinent nearly 55 million years ago.

In research, Scientists, including Kishor Kumar of the Wadia Institute for Himalayan Geology in Uttarakhand, have discovered a sheep-sized animal with moderate walking ability that belongs to the now extinct genus Cambaytherium.

They said the animal possessed intermediate characteristics between specialized ungulate mammals and their more general ancestors.

A comparison of its bones with many other living and extinct mammals revealed that this group of animals represented a more primitive stage of evolution than any known hoofed mammal.

According to the scientists, the findings support the group’s origins in or near India, which they believe was an island continent at the time that moved north and subsequently collided with the Asian continent to form a continuous land mass.

Hot, dusty work in huge open-cast lignite mines in India provides clues to the origin of perissodactyls. Photo credit: Ken Rose

They believe the group likely evolved in isolation in or around India 66 to 56 million years ago before dispersing to other continents when the land connection with Asia was formed.

“In 1990 Krause and Maas suggested that these orders (mammals) may have evolved in India as they migrated north from Madagascar, which spread across the northern continents when India collided with Asia,” he said. Ken Rose, lead author of the Johns Hopkins University study in the United States.

The researchers then scanned India for rare age-corrected fossil rocks that could provide critical evidence of the origins of these groups of mammals.

Their first trip to Rajasthan in 2001 paid off little, they said.

“Even though we only found a few fishbones on this trip, our Indian colleague Rajendra Rana continued exploring lignite mines in the south the following year and stumbled upon the Vastan mine in Gujarat,” said Rose.

The team is looking for Cambaytherium fossils in the Tadkeshwar mine in Gujarat. Photo credit: Ken Rose

This new mine proved to be more promising, the scientists added.

“In 2004 our team returned to the mine, where our Belgian colleague Thierry Smith found the first mammalian fossils, including Cambaytherium,” said Rose.

Despite the difficult conditions, the researchers returned to the mines and collected fossilized bones from these ancient mammals.

“The heat, constant noise and coal dust in the lignite mines was harsh, basically they were trying to work hundreds of feet near the bottom of the open cast lignite mines which are actively mined around the clock,” Rose added. . PTI

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