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OHIO scientists contribute to analysis of new fossil mammal found in Madagascar

From staff reports | Nov 18, 2014

Ohio University scientist Patrick O'Connor and graduate fellow Waymon Holloway are part of a research team that described the skull and neuroanatomy of a new species of fossil mammal found in Madagascar. The finding was published in the journal Nature earlier this month and received international media coverage in publications such as The New York Times.

(Visit the National Science Foundation website to view images, video about new fossil find.)

The scientific team, led by Stony Brook University paleontologist David Krause, discovered a 66-70 million-year-old groundhog-sized creature, massive in size compared to other mammals of its era, according to a news release from Stony Brook University and the National Science Foundation. The research team discovered a nearly complete cranium of the mammal, which lived alongside Late Cretaceous dinosaurs and birds in Madagascar.

The new fossil mammal is named Vintana sertichi. Vintana belongs to a group of early mammals known as gondwanatherians, which previously were known only from isolated teeth and a few jaw fragments.

The finding provides new insights into early mammalian evolution, the researchers said.

O'Connor, professor of anatomy in the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, and Holloway, an Osteopathic Heritage Foundations graduate fellow, contributed to the description and analysis of the newly discovered mammal. Aided by micro-computed tomography, the Ohio University researchers characterized the brain, sensory and cranial anatomy of the new animal, O'Connor said.

"A discovery like this further emphasizes the role that basic, exploratory research has for expanding our knowledge of what is even possible with regard to organismal form, not to mention that Vintana is so significant for informing our perspectives on southern hemisphere biodiversity during the Cretaceous Period. A very exciting discovery to be sure," O'Connor said.

O'Connor is a co-primary investigator on the National Science Foundation and National Geographic Society grants that support the Madagascar research.

"This project is the perfect example of how team-oriented, collaborative research efforts can comprehensively address a multitude of questions surrounding the discovery of a new fossil," he said. "From the efforts in the field to the various types of laboratory approaches, we know much more about this amazing new animal than would have been possible 10 years ago."