The First Art Newspaper on the Net   Established in 1996 United States Wednesday, July 26, 2017


Darwin's 'strangest animal ever' finds a family
Photograph of Charles Darwin; the frontispiece of Francis Darwin's The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin (1887). Photo: wikipedia.org.

by Marlowe Hood


PARIS (AFP).- Charles Darwin, Mr. Evolution himself, didn't know what to make of the fossils he saw in Patagonia so he sent them to his friend, the renowned paleontologist Richard Owen. Owen was stumped too. Little wonder.

"The bones looked different from anything he knew," said Michael Hofreiter, senior author of a study published Tuesday in Nature Communications that finally situates in the tree of life what Darwin called the "strangest animal ever discovered".

"Imagine a camel without a hump, with feet like a slender rhino, and a head shaped like a saiga antelope," Hofreiter, a professor at the University of Potsdam, told AFP.

Macrauchenia patachonica -- literally, "long-necked llama" -- also had a long rubbery snout and with its nostrils high on the skull just above its eyes.

For nearly two centuries, biologists and taxonomists argued over the pedigree of this bizarre beast, which weighed 400 to 500 kilos (850 to 1100 pounds), lived in open landscapes, and snacked on grass and leaves.

But its mixed bag of body features, and a paucity of DNA evidence, made it nearly impossible to determine whether M. patachonica was truly related the llama after which it was named.

As it turns out, not really.

Evolutionary dead end
A new kind of genetic analysis revealed that Macrauchenia was more akin to an ancient placental order known as Perissodactyla that includes horses, rhinos and tapirs.

"We had a difficult problem to solve here," said lead author of the new study Michael Westbury, also at the University of Potsdam.

"When ancient DNA is so degraded and full of unwanted environmental DNA, we rely on being able to use the genomes of close relatives as a kind of scaffold to reconstruct fossil sequences," he said in a statement.

But Macrauchenia -- itself an evolutionary dead end -- didn't have any close cousins that we know of.

To solve the puzzle, Westbury and a 20-strong team of scientists used mitochondrial DNA extracted from a fossil found in southern Chile to decode the extinct mammal's origins.

Inherited from the mother alone, the mitochondrial genome is smaller and has more copies in the cell -- and thus in fossils -- than DNA from the more complex nuclear genome, Hofreiter explained.

"Mitochondrial DNA is very useful for evaluating the degree of relatedness among species," he said.

The team eventually pieced together almost 80 percent of the total genome, making it possible to situate Macrauchenia in an evolutionary timeline.

The creature's lineage, they concluded, split with that of modern perissodactyls some 66 million years ago, about the same time a massive asteroid slammed into Earth and wiped out non-avian dinosaurs.

Macrauchenia survived until the late Pleistocene, 20,000 to 11,000 years ago.

"Why it disappeared we really don't know -- it is still an open question whether it was humans, climate change, or a combination of the two," said Hofreiter.

© Agence France-Presse






Today's News

July 3, 2017

Exhibition at Schirn Kunsthalle addresses the question of how peace actually works

First-ever exhibition on the historic salons that brought late 19th-century radical artists together opens in New York

Bird-like dinosaurs hatched eggs like chickens: Study

First ever exhibition to explore the realist tradition in British painting opens in Edinburgh

Major exhibition features previously unseen and new work by Howard Hodgkin

MoMA and WNYC announce "A Piece of Work," a podcast hosted by Abbi Jacobson

Darwin's 'strangest animal ever' finds a family

artnet focuses on art in the Middle East: 1950s to the present

Jeu de Paume opens exhibition devoted to the work of Willy Ronis at the Château de Tours

Hitler house expropriation stands: Austria court

TEFAF Art Market Report: Online focus provides backdrop for new digital initiative

"Markus Lüpertz: Threads of History" at the Hirshhorn presents rarely shown paintings

First Los Angeles solo exhibition for Takesada Matsutani on view at Hauser & Wirth

First UK solo exhibition by the celebrated German painter Daniel Richter opens at Camden Arts Centre

Solo show of British artist Sue Dunkley opens at Alison Jacques Gallery

Opening of the inaugural BALTIC Artists' Award exhibition reveals new work by four winners

Luhring Augustine opens exhibition of works by German artist KRIWET

Bortolami opens a two-person exhibition by Tom Burr and Andrea Zittel

Therianthropy: Laura Bartlett Gallery opens group exhibition

Exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao offers a comprehensive overview of Bill Viola's oeuvre

Matthias Bruggmann awarded the Prix Elysée

Vleeshal presents Lili Reynaud Dewar’s ‘Teeth, Gums, Machines, Future, Society’

Nancy Margolis Gallery's summer exhibition introduces works by Drea Cofield and Ping Zheng

Exhibition revisits the film by Fischli and Weiss titled 'The Way Things Go'

Most Popular Last Seven Days



1.- New Van Dyck painting on display at the Ashmolean

2.- Muscarelle Museum of Art chief curator identifies Paul Cézanne painting

3.- Sarah Lucas' first major museum exhibition in the United States opens in San Francisco

4.- The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago opens first-ever museum exhibition of Amanda Williams

5.- "Irene Williams: Queen of Lincoln Road" harkens back to a more colorful time on South Beach

6.- Paris show of Impressionist masterpieces never seen in West

7.- Scientists find that Aborigines have been in Australia longer than previously thought

8.- Exhibition at Haus der Kunst focuses on two pivotal exhibitions held in 1937

9.- Spanish judge schedules Dali exhumation for July 20

10.- 'The Noise' breathes the romance back into Formula One



Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .

 

Founder:
Ignacio Villarreal
Editor & Publisher:Jose Villarreal - Consultant: Ignacio Villarreal Jr.
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez


Royalville Communications, Inc
produces:

ignaciovillarreal.org avemariasound.org juncodelavega.com facundocabral-elfinal.org
Founder's Site. The most varied versions
of this beautiful prayer.
Hommage
to a Mexican poet.
Hommage
       

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful