Ancient Lystrosaurus tusks may show the oldest signs of a hibernation-like state

Wednesday, September 16, 2020 - 07:10 in Paleontology & Archaeology

The earliest fossil evidence of the metabolic slowdowns known as torpor may come from tusks of ancient creatures called Lystrosaurus. Fossil signatures of hibernation, a form of torpor, have turned up in rodent teeth several million years old. Lystrosaurus species, however, flourished from about 252 million to 248 million years ago. These ancient relatives of mammals were “totally bizarre animals,” says paleontologist Megan Whitney at Harvard University’s Museum of Comparative Zoology. With short-legged bodies like a corgi, they sported tusks plus a bony turtlelike beak instead of a mouthful of teeth (SN: 12/13/69). Species ranged in size from smaller, doggish animals to somewhat cowlike creatures. Lystrosaurus lived in some of the most dramatic times on Earth. Unlike many creatures, it survived the massive volcanic eruptions in what’s now Siberia that upset the chemistry of Earth’s atmosphere and oceans and probably triggered the Permian mass extinction about 252 million years ago. Some 70 percent...

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