Scientists have solved the 180-year mystery of South American ungulate mammals, which famously described naturalist Charles Darwin as "the most exotic animals ever released." Show " .
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The simulation of an endangered mammal with the Macrauchenia patachonica of South America, extinct about 10,000 years ago.(Photo: Daily Mail)
Paleontologists, including Charles Darwin, could not explain how South America's hoofed mammals evolved, when they had a lot in common with rodents and elephants. and camels.
However, by analyzing the proteins stored in fossil bones, the researchers now discover that they have relatives closer to modern horses. The technique they use also promises to reveal new information about extinct species long ago, but also save fossils.
Unlike DNA, proteins can be better stored inside fossils. According to experts, they can allow them to look back in the past 10 times more than contemporary techniques using ancient DNA.
Dr. Ross MacPhee, a member of the research team from the Mammal Research Department of the American Museum of Natural History, explains: "Arrange South American ungulate animals into a family of animal fauna The emulsion is always a big challenge for paleontologists, because in terms of anatomy, they are strange creatures, bringing together the characteristics of countless unrelated species across the continent. This is very confusing for Darwin and his partner, Richard Owen in the early 19th century.
According to Nature, the team originally extracted DNA from fossil bones from clawed fossils found in South America. However, DNA decays very quickly in humid, hot conditions in tropical regions that account for most of South America.
So the team looked for an alternative, analytical sequence of a structural protein called collagen , which exists in the bones of all animals. Collagen can withstand more than 1 million years in a variety of conditions and is composed of amino acids. These amino acid sequences are ultimately determined by animal DNA codes and can be used to draw conclusions about the origin of the species.
Experts reviewed 48 fossils of two species of Toxodon plantensis and Macrauchenia patachonica. Darwin also discovered fossils of these species in Uruguay and Argentina 180 years ago.
The new technique, called proteomics, has allowed researchers to know that the closest relatives with two ungulate mammals are odd-toed feet, including horses, rhinos and tapirs. This implies, the exotic animals of South America migrated to the continent from North America about 60 million years ago, only after a massive extinction eradicated many flightless dinosaurs.
Experts believe that the technique could help revolutionize research in paleontology, by allowing scientists to look further into the past than DNA analysis, as well as There are many other applications in the field of anthropology.