Earliest ancestor of land herbivores discovered
Toronto: Scientists have identified the earliest ancestor of land-dwelling plant eaters, and the creature dating back 300 million years, surprisingly, was a meat lover.
New research from the University of Toronto Mississauga demonstrates how carnivores transitioned into herbivores for the first time on land.
Previously unknown, the 300-million-year old fossilised juvenile skeleton of Eocasea martini is less than 20 cm long.
Found in Kansas, it consists of a partial skull, most of the vertebral column, the pelvis and a hind limb.
By comparing the skeletal anatomy of related animals, researchers discovered that Eocasea martini belonged to the caseid branch of the group Synapsid.
This group, which includes early terrestrial herbivores and large top predators, ultimately evolved into modern living mammals.
Eocasea lived nearly 80 million years before the age of dinosaurs.
"Eocasea is one of the oldest relatives of modern mammals and closes a gap of about 20 million years to the next youngest members of the caseid family," said Jorg Frobisch of the Museum fur Naturkunde and Humboldt-University in Berlin.
Eocasea is also the most primitive member and was carnivorous, feeding on insects and other small animals.
Younger members were herbivorous, clear evidence that large terrestrial herbivores evolved from the group`s small, non-herbivorous members, such as Eocasea.
"Eocasea is the first animal to start the process that has resulted in a terrestrial ecosystem with many plant eaters supporting fewer and fewer top predators," Robert Reisz, a professor in the Department of Biology, said.
Researchers also found that herbivory, the ability to digest and process high-fibre plant material such as leaves and shoots, was established not just in the lineage that includes Eocasea. It arose independently at least five times, including twice in reptiles.
"Multiple groups kept re-evolving the same herbivorous traits," said Reisz.
The five groups developed the novel ability to live off plants in staggered bursts with synapsids such as Eocasea preceding reptiles by nearly 30 million years.
This shows that herbivory as a feeding strategy evolved first among distant relatives of mammals, instead of ancient reptiles - the branch that eventually gave rise to dinosaurs, birds, and modern reptiles.
The research is published online in PLoS One.
More from India
More from World
More from Sports
More from Entertaiment
- One year of Modi govt: PM promises to fulfil aspirations
- Watch: Mumbai cops find new secret agents in housewives!
- Hundreds die as heat wave continues in India
- 2G scam: Ex-TRAI chief alleges Manmohan Singh had warned him to cooperate
- Pranab Mukherjee defends Bofors scam, says it was just a media trial
- Salman Khan attends sister Arpita's wedding reception in Mandi
- Zee Media's mega survey on Modi govt
- Zee Media Exclusive: Vidya Balan chats about 'Hamari Adhuri Kahani'
- Para athlete Deepa Malik complains of callous service by Air India
- I eat beef, can somebody stop me?: Kiren Rijiju hits back at Naqvi
- Smriti Irani visits Amethi, promises to pay insurance money to 25,000 women
- Delhi: Visually impaired boy scores 91.4% in CBSE 12th Board exams
- One year of Modi govt: Amit Shah addresses media
- MP: 14-year-old boy works as bonded labour since 2009
- UP: Man chops off wife's nose, hair for dowry
- One year of NDA govt: PM Modi writes open letter to nation, promises to transform India
- Arpita-Aayush wedding reception: Salman Khan spreads love in Mandi, says `hum aapke hain`
- World optimistic about India: PM Narendra Modi on 1 year of NDA govt
- MSBSHSE Class 12th HSC results 2015 to be declared at 1pm tomorrow
- CBSE Class 10 Board Result 2015 (cbse.nic.in, cbseresults.nic.in) postponed?
- CBSE Class 10 Board Result 2015 to be announced on May 28
- Rahul Gandhi takes a dig at one year of Modi govt, wishes 'happy birthday' to 'suit-boot ki sarkar'
- Bharatiya Janata Party lacks majority for Ram Temple, Article 370: Amit Shah
- Check mahresult.nic.in for MSBSHSE Maharashtra Class 12 HSC Result 2015
- AAP govt moves resolution against MHA notification: As it happened
- Maharashtra MSBSHSE HSC Result 2015 on mahresult.nic.in
- Heatwave kills 90 more in Andhra, Telangana; toll crosses 800
- I was misquoted, says Kiren Rijiju on 'beef' remark
- Gujjars adamant on holding talks in Bayana; rail tracks remain blocked
- CBSE 10th result to be declared tomorrow