Important Piece of the Puzzle
The fossil record of early mammals from the northern hemisphere is roughly an order of magnitude better than from the south.
“Adalatherium is just one piece, but an important piece, in a very large puzzle on early mammalian evolution in the southern hemisphere,” Krause noted. “Unfortunately, most of the pieces are still missing.”
More than anything, this discovery underscores to the researchers how much more remains to be learned by making new discoveries of early mammals in Madagascar and other parts of the former Gondwana.
In addition to Krause, who is also a professor emeritus at Stony Brook University in NY; and Hoffmann, other researchers involved in the new discovery—which was funded by the National Science Foundation and National Geographic Society—were: the late Yaoming Hu of Stony Brook University; John R. Wible of Carnegie Museum of Natural History; Guillermo W. Rougier of University of Louisville; E. Christopher Kirk of University of Texas at Austin; Joseph R. Groenke of Stony Brook University and Ohio University; Raymond R. Rogers of Macalester College; James B. Rossie of Stony Brook University; Julia A. Schultz of Institut für Geowissenschaften der Universität Bonn, Alistair R. Evans of Monash University and Museums Victoria; Wighart von Koenigswald of Institut für Geowissenschaften der Universität Bonn; and Lydia J. Rahantarisoa of Université d’Antananarivo.
The new Adalatherium mammal is just the latest of a series of bizarre back-boned animals discovered by Krause and his research team on Madagascar over the past 25 years. Earlier discoveries have included a giant, armored, predatory frog (Beelzebufo), a pug-nosed, vegetarian crocodile (Simosuchus), and a small, buck-toothed dinosaur (Masiakasaurus).
The island itself is today filled with animals (and plants) found nowhere else on the planet, including hissing cockroaches, giraffe weevils, tomato frogs, Satanic leaf-tailed geckos, panther chameleons, and streaked tenrecs to name a few. And, of course, there is the signature group of mammals – lemurs – made famous in the animated “Madagascar” movies. Only a few thousand years ago, the Madagascar fauna also included 1400-pound elephant birds, gorilla-sized lemurs, and pygmy hippopotamuses.
Everything we now know about the island's biota, past and present, confirms what was stated by an early visitor to the island, French naturalist Philibert Commerson, who wrote in 1771 that 'Madagascar is the naturalist's promised land. There you meet bizarre and marvelous forms at every step.