The paleontologists are discussing about the unique ancient fossils of a ‘Wildebeest’ unearthed in Kenya. The creature named Rusingoryx has left researchers speechless, as its nasal structure is more like of a dinosaur than that of a mammal.
At first glance, it seems unlikely that a shaggy-maned antelope from the Ice Age could have anything in common with a group a dinosaurs that roamed during the Cretaceous period 145 to 66 million years ago. However, science can be full of surprises.
Rusingoryx atopocranion is the name of the spcies that is related to the modern wildebeest. Below, you can see an image with the wildebeest in its natural habitat:
And here is an artist’s interpretation of Rusingoryx atopocranion:
The experts’ observation is that the newly discovered ‘beast’ shares a bizarre adaptation with a group of hadrosaurs: a hollow, domed ridge of bone along the front of its face called a nasal crest.
This structure was incredibly surprising. To see a hollow nasal crest outside of dinosaurs and in a mammal that lived so recently is very bizarre.
– Ohio University paleontologist Haley O’Brien said.
These fossils of Rusingoryx, about the size of its close cousin the wildebeest, date from about 55,000 to 75,000 years ago. Hadrosaurs with similar nasal structures, Lambeosaurus and Corythosaurus, lived about 75 million years ago.
O’Brien said the structure was an example of ‘convergent evolution‘ in which disparate organisms independently evolve similar features, like the wings of birds, bats and the extinct flying reptiles called pterosaurs, to adapt to similar environments or ecological niches.
About Rusingoryx’s lifestyle, the researchers say that they led a lifestyle similar to hadrosaurs: herbivores both likely traveling in herds. Many scientists think hadrosaurs also used their crests to communicate vocally with one another.
Moreover, the experts say that Rusingoryx’s nasal apparatus may have allowed it to deepen its normal vocal calls into ‘infrasound’ levels other species may not have been able to hear.
In order to come to a conclusion, the researchers examined six adult and juvenile Rusingoryx skulls. The bony crest, laying on the top and front of the skull, was mostly hollow inside. It contained nasal passages that followed the outside of the structure then took an S-shaped pathway down into the soft tissue part of the airway. The nasal passage then sat atop of a pair of large sinuses.
At least 24 Rusingoryx individuals were found at the site. University of Minnesota paleoanthropologist Kirsten Jenkins said butchered bones and stone tools there indicated humans may have caused their deaths. Jenkins said hunters may have driven a herd into the stream for an ambush.
This research was published in the journal Current Biology.