New fossil seal species rewrites historical past

New fossil seal species rewrites history

A world staff of biologists has found a brand new species of extinct monk seal from the Southern Hemisphere — describing it as the most important breakthrough in seal evolution in 70 years.

New fossil seal species rewrites history
An artist impression of the newly found extinct monk seal species
[Credit: Jaime Bran/Museum of New Zealand Te Papa]

The invention, revealed this week within the Proceedings of the Royal Society, radically modifications scientists’ understanding of how seal species advanced all over the world.

It got here after researchers examined seven preserved fossil specimens, together with an entire cranium, discovered by native fossil hunters on south Taranaki seashores in New Zealand between 2009 and 2016.

The brand new species is known as Eomonachus belegaerensis, (which means ‘daybreak monk seal from Belegaer’) after the ocean of Belegaer, which lies west of Center Earth in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

Round 2.5 metres in size and weighing round 200 – 250kg, Eomonachus belegaerensis lived within the waters round New Zealand some three million years in the past.

New fossil seal species rewrites history
Items of the fossil specimens found embody an entire cranium
[Credit: Monash University]

It was beforehand thought that each one true seals originated within the North Atlantic, with some later crossing the equator to stay as far south as Antarctica.

Eomonachus now reveals that many historic seals, together with the ancestors of at present’s monk, elephant and Antarctic seals, really advanced within the Southern Hemisphere.

Monash palaeontologist James Rule, a PhD candidate on the Biomedicine Discovery Institute, led the analysis as a part of a trans-Tasman collaboration involving Monash College and Museums Victoria in Australia, and Te Papa and Canterbury Museum in New Zealand. The examine was supervised and co-authored by Dr Justin Adams (Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute), Dr Erich Fitzgerald (Museums Victoria), and Affiliate Professor Alistair Evans (College of Organic Sciences).

“This new species of extinct monk seal is the primary of its type from the Southern Hemisphere. Its discovery actually turns seal evolution on its head,” Mr Rule mentioned.

New fossil seal species rewrites history
Monash College Palaeontologist James Rule inspects the fossil cranium of the newly
recognized monk seal species [Credit: Monash University]

“Till now, we thought that each one true seals originated within the Northern Hemisphere, after which crossed the equator simply a couple of times throughout their complete evolutionary historical past. As a substitute, lots of them seem to have advanced within the southern Pacific, after which criss-crossed the equator as much as eight occasions.”

Te Papa Museum of New Zealand curator of marine mammals and examine collaborator Dr Felix Marx mentioned the invention was a triumph for citizen science.

“This new species has been found because of quite a few, exceptionally well-preserved fossils – all of which have been discovered by members of the general public.”

Dr Marx is hopeful about future discoveries of recent species in New Zealand’s historic previous. “New Zealand is extremely wealthy in fossils, and up to now we now have barely scratched the floor. Who is aware of what else is on the market?” Dr Marx mentioned.

Supply: Monash College [November 10, 2020]

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