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Top Story

Fossil discovery adds to understanding of how geological changes affected evolution of mammalian life

The discovery of fossil teeth from two marsupial species that lived 43 million years ago on what was at that time an island provides key insights into the influence of geological changes on the evolution of mammals, according to newly published research funded by the National Science Foundation. The dominant model for understanding animal movement is that the most important factors are an island's size and its distance from the colonizing animals' territory. However, the discovery of the fossils -- from Galatiadelphys minor and Orhaniyeia nauta -- indicate that an island's geological context is more important to influencing changes in animal movement and evolution. The research drew from geology and evolutionary biology, an interdisciplinary approach that shows the value of supporting research that converges different scientific fields to advance our knowledge. The fossil discovery occurred in the Pontide terrane, an area in present-day Turkey that was once an island located between contemporary Asia and Africa.

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