Previous unknown fox species found
Researchers from Wits University, the University of Johannesburg and international scientists announced on January 22, 2012, the discovery of a two million year old fossil fox at the now renowned archaeological site of Malapa in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site. In an article published in the journal Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa, the researchers describe the previously unknown species of fox named Vulpes Skinneri -- named in honour of the recently deceased world renowned South African mammalogist and ecologist, Prof. John Skinner of the University of Pretoria.
The site of Malapa has, since its discovery in 2008, yielded one of the most extraordinary fossil assemblages in the African record, including skeletons of a new species of human ancestor named Australopithecus sediba, first described in 2010.
The new fox fossils consist of a mandible and parts of the skeleton and can be distinguished from any living or extinct form of fox known to science based on proportions of its teeth and other aspects of its anatomy.
Dr. Brian Kuhn of Wits' Institute for Human Evolution (IHE) and the School of GeoSciences, an author on the paper and head of the Malapa carnivore studies explains: "It's exciting to see a new fossil fox. The ancestry of foxes is perhaps the most poorly known among African carnivores and to see a potential ancestral form of living foxes is wonderful."
Prof. Lee Berger, also of the IHE and School of GeoSciences, author on the paper and Director of the Malapa project notes: "Malapa continues to reveal this extraordinary record of past life and as important as the human ancestors are from the site, the site's contribution to our understanding of the evolution of modern African mammals through wonderful specimens like this fox is of equal import. Who knows what we will find next?."
The entire team has expressed their privilege in naming the new species after "John Skinner, one of the great names in the study of African mammals and particularly carnivores. We (the authors) think that John would be pleased, and it is fitting that this rare little find would carry his name forever."
Source: University of the Witwatersrand
Latest Science NewsletterGet the latest and most popular science news articles of the week in your Inbox! It's free!
Learn more about
Check out our next project, Biology.Net
From other science news sites
Popular science news articles
- Probing how CRISPR-Cas9 works
- Graphene key to growing 2-dimensional semiconductor with extraordinary properties
- NASA sees Typhoon Lionrock approaching Japan
- University of Akron researchers find thin layers of water can become ice-like at room temperature
- Low socioeconomic status associated with higher risk of second heart attack or stroke
- Study: Biofuels increase, rather than decrease, heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions
- Hay fever from ragweed pollen could double due to climate change
- NASA's GPM examines Tropical Storm Lester
- Gene therapy via ultrasound could offer new therapeutic tool
- Designing ultrasound tools with Lego-like proteins
- Nobel laureate, new technologies show how cancer cells protect chromosomes from decay
- NASA sees Tropical Storm Lionrock south of Japan
- Tool or weapon? New research throws light on stone artifacts' use as ancient projectiles
- Bartending and family life might not mix, study says
- Being the primary breadwinner is bad for men's psychological well-being and health