A team of scientists from the University of Tübingen in Germany and the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment Tübingen was able to recover fossils of two previously unknown mammal species that lived about 37 million years ago. The newly described mammals show a surprisingly close relationship to prehistoric species known from fossil sites in Europe. The work was published in Zitteliana. The location of the finds was the open lignite-mining pit in Na Duong in Vietnam. Here, the team of scientists was also able to make a series of further discoveries, including three species of fossilized crocodiles and several new turtles. Southeast Asia is considered a particularly species-rich region, even in prehistoric times – a so-called hotspot of biodiversity. For several decades now, scientists have postulated close relationships that existed in the late Eocene (ca. 38-34 million years ago) between the faunas of that region and Europe. The recent findings by the research team under leadership of Professor Dr. Madelaine Böhme serve as proof that some European species originated in Southeast Asia. One of the newly described mammals is a rhinoceros, Epiaceratherium naduongense. The anatomy of the fossil teeth allows identifying this rhinoceros as a potential forest dweller. The other species is the so-called “Coal Beast”, Bakalovia orientalis. This pig-like ungulate, closely related to hippos, led a semi-aquatic lifestyle, i.e., it preferred the water close to bank areas. At that time, Na Duong was a forested swampland surrounding Lake Rhin Chua. The mammals’ remains bear signs of crocodile attacks. Indeed, the excavation site at Na Duong contains the fossilized remains of crocodiles up to 6 meters in length. In the Late Eocene, the European mainland presented a very different aspect than it does today.
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