The error came out. Mammals appeared in the southern hemisphere and 50 million years earlier
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Researchers find strong evidence Moreover, the evolution of the ancestors of mammals did not begin at all in the north, as scientists previously believed.
It took scientists two decades of research and one pandemic to bring together the fossilized remains of the earliest ancestors of mammals and discover that their evolution, which gave rise to modern humans, actually seems to have begun in the southern hemisphere, and not at all in the north, as previously thought, writes Science Alert.
According to co-author of the study and longtime fossil hunter, paleontologist Thomas Rich, he himself resisted his discovery as much as he could for a long time, but the evidence turned out to be very strong.
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Rich was part of a team that in 1997, after more than two dozen searches, found a mammalian jawbone on an Australian beach with strange teeth similar to those previously found only in Europe and North America. The researchers believe that the jawbone belonged to a shrew-like creature and dates back to the Cretaceous period, when dinosaurs still roamed the Earth.
Since then, scientists have unearthed jawbones from Mesozoic-era mammals in Madagascar, Argentina, India, and Australia. In each of these specimens, 2.5 centimeters or even less, characteristic posterior teeth were found. Curiously, recent analyzes have shown that the oldest fossils in the Southern Hemisphere are 50 million older than any found in the Northern Hemisphere.
According to Rich, this discovery turns everything we know about the evolution of mammals literally upside down. During the pandemic, two paleontologists Tim Flannery and Chris Helgen, Chief Scientist at the Australian Museum, made the decision to re-examine three Australian tribosphene mammal fossils. The most recent of these fossils was described by Rich in 2020.
During the study, scientists discovered that these strange teeth combine early mammalian fossils found in the Southern Hemisphere. In addition, they found that the Argentine specimen was the oldest ever found – on average, it is about 50 million years older.
As a result, scientists have compiled their own alternative history of the origin and evolution of mammals. Scientists suggest that the ancestors of mammals could jump between the southern continents, while they were still united into the Gondwana supercontinent about 125 million years ago, and only then headed north.
Scientists studied the age and anatomical similarity of the fossils and came to the conclusion that they represented the earliest ancestors of marsupials – for example, koalas and combatants, as well as placentals – including humans, who were grouped together as Therian mammals.
Note that some paleontologists still doubt the new theory – more research will be needed to shed light on what actually happened.