New research released in this month's issue of the journal PALAIOS describes an incredible fossil of an adult crocodilian preserved alongside its eggs. The fossil was discovered in central Germany at a site called Geiseltal in a brown coal mine back in 1932, but received little attention until the recent study. The authors explain how the fossil plays an important role in our understanding of the evolution of parental care.
Modern crocodilian mothers guard their eggs and young, but without any direct fossil evidence, scientists could only hypothesize that ancient crocodiles were also good mothers. This fossil shows the behavior likely goes back at least 45 million years into the fossil record.
"This is easily the most remarkable fossil crocodile I have ever seen", said lead author Dr. Alex Hastings of Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg, "the fossil tells us a lot about growth and reproduction, which you very rarely get the opportunity to study in the fossil record".
The good mother crocodilian belongs to an extinct species called Diplocynodon darwini, named after the renowned evolutionary thinker Charles Darwin. Despite being able to produce offspring, the 1-meter female (a little over 3 ft) was not done growing, shown by the fusion of vertebrae in the fossil.
Fusion of vertebrae is commonly used to judge how old dinosaurs and other fossil crocodiles were when they died, meaning this little mother crocodilian gives new information that will be helpful in researching other extinct forms of ancient life.
In 1932, the excavators took very detailed notes including the position and identity of each fossil taken from the small area of the brown coal mine. From these records, the researchers were able to rule out volcanism, flooding, and drought as likely causes of death. The eggs were not hatched or scavenged and there was no sign of injury on the adult.
The large amount of animal bodies collected from one layer of coal may instead show a mass die-off that could have happened during a short 'cold snap', even despite the warm climate. A similar situation occurred in 2010 in the Everglades of Florida (USA) where many animals that were adapted for a warm climate, including crocodiles, died quickly during the unusually cold weather of a 2-week 'cold snap'.
Another possibility is that the mother crocodilian instead died of a condition called dystocia, where an egg blocks the canal and prevents further egg-laying. This condition is very rare in modern crocodiles, but takes days or longer to lead to the death of the mother. This means that under either scenario, the mother evidently stayed with her eggs until death, showing a strong maternal instinct in this fossil crocodilian species.
Although excavation at the mine ended in the 1990s and the area has since been turned into a recreational lake, fossils from this site are still leading to new discoveries.
Alexander K. Hastings: "Rare In Situ Preservation of Adult Crocodylian with Eggs from the Middle Eocene of Geiseltal, Germany", Palaios, June 2015, DOI: 10.2110/palo.2014.062
Manuela Bank-Zillmann | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Receding glaciers in Bolivia leave communities at risk
20.10.2016 | European Geosciences Union
UM researchers study vast carbon residue of ocean life
19.10.2016 | University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.
In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...
'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.
Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine
21.10.2016 | Information Technology
21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences