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Primitive early relative of armadillos helps rewrite evolutionary family tree
Date:12/11/2007

A team of U.S. and Chilean scientists working high in the Andes have discovered the fossilized remains of an extinct, tank-like mammal they conclude was a primitive relative of todays armadillos. The results of their surprising new discovery are described in an upcoming issue of Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

The on-going project is co-led by John Flynn, Chairman of the Division of Paleontology and Frick Curator of Fossil Mammals at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, and Darin Croft, assistant professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and also includes Andr Wyss, professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Both Croft and Wyss also are Research Associates in the Museums Division of Paleontology.

The partial skeleton was unearthed by the group in 2004 and found to represent a new species of glyptodonta family of hard-shelled, grazing mammals that may have occasionally tipped the scales at two tons. The newly described animal, which was given the tongue-twisting name Parapropalaehoplophorus septentrionalis, likely weighed in at a mere 200 pounds and was covered with a massive shell of immovable armored plates, unlike the hinged rows of plates on armadillos. The fossil was found at the unusually high elevation of 14,000 feet.

The thin air, scarce water, and frigid temperatures of the high Andes posed significant challenges to the researchers, but were not the conditions under which this glyptodont lived. Our studies elsewhere on the Altiplano suggest that the region was at a much lower elevation when these fossils lived, said Flynn. In addition to providing a look at the paleoecology of the region, this has given us new insights into the timing and rate of uplift of the Andes.

Over the past decade, the teams fossil-hunting expeditions to northern Chile have discovered a diverse array of several hundred fossil mammal specimens. These animals, known collectively as the Ch
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Contact: Ken Kostel
kkostel@amnh.org
212-496-3419
American Museum of Natural History
Source:Eurekalert

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