UW News has posted a story about new insights into the evolution of tusks featuring research by Christian Sidor, UW Biology Professor; Megan Whitney, UW Biology doctoral alumna and Harvard University researcher; and Brandon Peecook, UW Biology doctoral alum and assistant professor at Idaho State University.
Many animals have tusks, from elephants to walruses to hyraxes. But one thing today’s tusked animals have in common is that they’re all mammals — no known fish, reptiles or birds have them. But that was not always the case. In a study published Oct. 27 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, a team of paleontologists at Harvard University, the Field Museum, the University of Washington and Idaho State University traced the first tusks back to dicynodonts — ancient mammal relatives that lived before the dinosaurs.
The team analyzed paper-thin slices taken from fossilized teeth of 10 dicynodont species. They discovered that some dicynodont teeth are indeed tusks, while others, particularly those of some of the earlier species, were just large teeth. It also appears that different members of the dicynodont family evolved tusks independently.
This is the earliest known instance of true tusks, and could help scientists better understand evolutionary processes, particularly in our own mammalian lineage.
Read the full article in UW News.
Bonus: read related article in GeekWire.