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Spanish Giraffes, Silly Mammoths, and Killer Cat Folklore

A Giraffe in Madrid?

A new fossil discovery near Madrid revealed that an ancient ancestor of the giraffe may have inhabited Europe even earlier than scientists previously thought. The fossils of three other similar individuals were found, but they were not nearly as intact as the Madrid fossil. Decennatherium rex, as the new species has been called, had two sets of bony bumps on its head and represents its own piece of giraffe history. These individuals probably looked more like a nine-foot-tall modern moose than a giraffe though. While modern giraffes are distinguished by their long necks, their ancient family members are defined by double-lobed canine teeth and the bony outcropping on top of the head. The fact that both male and females were found with the bony head pieces also tells scientists that their evolutionary purpose was not only for males competing for female attention. Read more about the discovery here.

 

Stupidity of Male Mammoths Helps Modern Science

Paleontoloigsts have discovered that wooly mammoths underwent harsh fates such as falling through thin ice, becoming swallowed by sinkholes or being swept away by a mudflow. Although many mammoths met untimely deaths in these sci-fi-style fates, dramatic deaths help preserve fossils over thousands of years to provide scientists with unique insight into prehistoric life in Siberia. In a recently published study, scientists revealed that a majority of the 98 mammoth remains found from unique circumstances were male. Many biologists have seen cases of gender bias like this. The males of many species tend to get themselves killed in silly ways, and now it has been observed in mammoths as well. To learn more about studies in social behaviors of mammoths, click here.

 

How the Leopard Got Its Name

The cat family is diverse and powerful from ocelots to cougars to lions and pards? Until the mid-18-th century, scientists and the general public thought that leopards were a hybrid breed – the offspring of a female lion and a male pard. The pard was thought to be a terrifying, killer cat that would come to the banks of the African rivers to reproduce with unsuspecting female lionesses in spite of the other male lions. While seen in older literature by Pliny the Elder and Shakespeare, today’s folklore explores more unicorns and dragons since science is clearer about the biology of the cat family. Read more about big cat mythology here.

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