In an unprecedented find, a team of University of New South Wales (UNSW) researchers has unearthed from the cave floor hundreds of beautifully preserved fossils of the extinct browsing wombat-like marsupial Nimbadon lavarackorum, along with the remains of galloping kangaroos, primitive bandicoots, a fox-sized thylacine and forest bats.
Details of the find at a site known as AL90 in the famous Riversleigh World Heritage fossil field in Queensland are published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, by a team led by Dr Karen Black of the UNSW School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences. The research was supported by the Xstrata Community Partnership Program North Queensland and the Australian Research Council.
By comparing the skulls of 26 different Nimbadon individuals that died in the cave at varying stages of life the team has been able to show that its babies developed in much the same way as marsupials today, probably being born after only a month's gestation and crawling to the mother's pouch to complete their early development.
"This is a fantastic and incredibly rare site," says Dr. Black. "The exceptional preservation of the fossils has allowed us to piece together the growth and development of Nimbadon from baby to adult. So far 26 skulls – ranging in age from suckling pouch young and juveniles right through to elderly adults – have been recovered, as well as associated skeletons.”
"The animals appear to have plunged to their deaths through a vertical cave entrance that may have been obscured by vegetation and acted as a natural pit-fall trap. These animals – including mothers with pouch young – either unwittingly fell to their deaths or survived the fall only to be entombed and unable to escape.
"The ceiling and walls of the cave were eroded away millions of years ago, but the floor of the cave remains at ground level. We have literally only scratched its surface, with thousands more bones evident at deeper levels in the deposit.”
The site is also scientifically important because it documents a critical time in the evolution of Australia’s flora and fauna when lush greenhouse conditions were giving way to a long, slow drying out that fundamentally reshaped the continent's cargo of life as rainforests retreated.
Dr. Black notes that the Nimbadon skulls also reveal that early in life, the emphasis of its growth was on the development of bones at the front of the face, to help the baby to suckle from its mother. As it grew older and its diet changed to eating leaves, the rest of the skull developed and grew quite massive by way of a series of bony chambers surrounding the brain.
Team member Professor Mike Archer says, "Yet we found that its brain was quite small and stopped growing relatively early in its life. We think it needed a large surface area of skull to provide attachments for all the muscle power it required to chew large quantities of leaves, so its skull features empty areas, or sinus cavities. Roughly translated, this may be the first demonstration of how a growing mammal ‘pays’ for the need to eat more greens – by becoming an ‘airhead’.”
"The abundance of Nimbadon fossils also suggests that they travelled in family groups or perhaps even larger gatherings; it’s possible that this also reflects the beginning of mob behaviour in herbivorous marsupials, such as we see today in grey kangaroos."ABOUT THE SOCIETY OF VERTEBRATE PALEONTOLOGY
Information for this release provided by the University of New South Wales.For complimentary access to the full article, visit:
Journal Web site: Society of Vertebrate Paleontology: http://www.vertpaleo.orgCONTACT INFORMATION
Karen Black | Newswise Science News
Predicting unpredictability: Information theory offers new way to read ice cores
07.12.2016 | Santa Fe Institute
Sea ice hit record lows in November
07.12.2016 | University of Colorado at Boulder
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine
07.12.2016 | Life Sciences
07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine