The Macrauchenia patachonica is a bizarre animal which not even Charles Darwin could place on the evolutionary line. However, a new study claims to have found its place on the tree of life as it determined the Macrauchenia’s life.
Macrauchenia is known to have lived during the last Ice Age and to have died out some 12,000 years ago. Discovered remains indicate that it must have looked like a bulky camel with no hump. Instead, it seems to have had a long neck, similar to a llama’s. It also appears to have had a short trunk, possibly instead of a nose.
This long neck would have helped it reach plant and bush leaves across the territory that is now South America or the open spaces of Patagonia.
This Bizarre Animal Has Been Confusing Scientists For a Long Time
Charles Darwin, the legendary British scientist, was the first to discover a fossil of this species. Richard Owen, a British paleontologist, also studied fossil remains of this bizarre animal. But neither of the two could determine its exact family. Instead, they placed it in the “South American native ungulates” category.
The new study on the Macrauchenia patachonica is based on previous research, carried out in 2015, and which revolved around ancient collagen. This latest research took this as a base and then extracted mitochondrial DNA from a South American-based fossil.
This helped determine that the animal belongs to a sister group of the Perissodactyla. One which also includes horses, tapirs, and rhinos. It is believed that the two groups split around 66 million years ago, during a mass extinction.
“We now have found a place in the tree of life for this group, so we can now also better explain how the peculiarities of these animals evolved,” said Michi Hofreiter.
He is the new study’s lead author and a paleogenomics expert part of the University of Potsdam.
Hofreiter states that this research helped finally find the closest relative of one of the strangest animals yet discovered.
Now, the team of scientists will target “the strangest animal ever discovered”, according to Darwin, the Toxodon.
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