Evidence of Ancient Cow from India

A team of scientists from Northern India working in the Narmada river valley have unearthed evidence of a prehistoric mammal, an ungulate (hoofed mammal), from the very end of the age of the Dinosauria.  The fossils of a Meozoic cow have been discovered!

The Narmada valley is a well known geological site with an extensive range of exposed strata dating back to the Late Cretaceous and the Palaeocene.  The scientists discovered a single 2.5 cm long tooth in sediments estimated to be 65 million years old.  Comparing the tooth to living mammals the team has speculated that it could belong to a cow-like mammal.

A Fossil Tooth from a Cow-like Mammal

Teeth are made from enamel, which is the hardest substance in the bodies of vertebrates, and excellent material for preservation and fossilisation.  Mammalian teeth have many distinctive characteristics when compared to reptilian dentition, indeed broad generalisations can be made between placental and monotreme mammals based on the crown shape and structure of single finds such as this one.

The fossil predates any other similar discoveries and it places India as one of the locations where ungulates first evolved. The research has just been published in the American Journal Science.  The authors of the paper on the discovery of this ungulate mammal are Dr G V R Prasad, Omkar Verma, Dr Ashok Sahni, Varun Parmar and Dr Ashu Khosla.

The Narmada valley is notorious for causing palaeontologists problems with dating specimens, particularly early hominid remains. An ancient cranium of modern being H. sapiens, was discovered in the area. It was controversially dated to 700,000 years ago, making it the earliest remains of H. sapiens ever found. However, recent research by notable Indian scientists Rajeev Patnaik and Parth R Chauhan suggest that this isolated hominid fragment is not as old as previously stated.

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