Thursday, January 05, 2006

Thai Rice Field Yields Mammal Fossils

© Paprikaas Animation Studios.

From Stefan Lovgren at National Geographic News comes this article:

Fossils from the prehistoric elephant-like Stegodon have been found in a rice field in a province three hours from Bangkok. Other specimens were also found deposited in a thin layer of fine gravel and sand mixed with organic matter about 5 meters below the surface, including skulls of a gavial (a crocodile-like reptile) and a spotted hyena, deer antlers, and a buffalo horn. The fossils are believed to be about 400,000 years old.

"I've never seen such a community of large mammals in one excavation," said Yaowalak Chaimanee, a government paleontologist.

The discovery may shed new light on the distribution of prehistoric species, including human ancestors, in the region. The site documents a period when Thailand had a more temperate climate, attracting animals from India and China.

"These southward distribution shifts are important to understand and date, because they may also explain the southward spread of Homo erectus populations and later … Homo sapiens," Yaowalak said. Scientists believe that, similar to the southward migration of mammals such as the Stegodon, populations of Homo erectus may also have moved south in Asia at one point.

Read the original article HERE.