Tracks of an unknown mammal dating to the Early Cretaceous are discovered along with tracks of a crocodile and a dinosaur

The creature was about the size of a raccoon, researchers said. (Photo: Marco Marzola)

The creature was about the size of a raccoon, researchers said. (Photo: Marco Marzola)

The research of an international team co-led by SMU paleontologist Louis L. Jacobs is receiving worldwide coverage for discovery of the first dinosaur tracks discovered in Angola, including those of a mysterious mammal from 118 million years ago.

Reporter Hannah Osborne wrote about the discovery Nov. 5 for The International Business Times in the article “Angola: Huge Mystery Mammal Tracks from Early Cretaceous Period Discovered in Catoca Diamond Mine.”

The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology announced the discovery in a press release Nov. 5, “African diamond mine reveals dinosaur and large mammal tracks.”

The discovery was made by a Octávio Mateus, a member of Projecto PaleoAngola.

Jacobs, a professor of earth sciences at SMU, is a former president of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. His research focus is the interrelationships of biotic and abiotic events through time.

His fieldwork is currently focused through Projecto PaleoAngola on the iconic, puzzle-like fit of Africa and South America, as viewed through the rocks and fossils of coastal Angola.

SMU paleontologist Michael J. Polcyn is also a member of the Projecto PaleoAngola team.

The PaleoAngola researchers have described Angola as a “museum in the ground” for the abundance of fossils there.

A professor in Dedman College’s Roy M. Huffington Department of Earth Sciences, Jacobs joined SMU’s faculty in 1983.

In the laboratory, Jacobs’ research utilizes advanced imaging and stable isotope techniques to investigate paleoenvironmental, biogeographic and phylogenetic issues of the Mesozoic and Cenozoic eras.

Polcyn is director of the Visualization Laboratory in SMU’s Department of Earth Sciences and an SMU research associate.

A world-recognized expert on the extinct marine reptile named Mosasaur, Polcyn’s research interests include the early evolution of Mosasauroidea and adaptations in secondarily aquatic tetrapods. Polcyn’s research also includes application of technology to problems in paleontology.

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By Hannah Osborne
International Business Times

The tracks of a huge mysterious mammal dating to the Early Cretaceous period have been discovered in the world’s fourth-biggest diamond mine in Africa.

Dating to 118 million years ago, researchers discovered the tracks of a crocodile, a dinosaur and a large unknown mammal inside the Catoca Diamond Mine in Angola.

Over 70 tracks were uncovered by researcher from the PaleoAngola Project, a programme that researches vertebrate palaeontology in Angola.

The dinosaur tracks – the first to be found in the African nation – were from a sauropod and were discovered with a preserved skin impression. The crocodile, a crocodilomorph trackmaker, was from a group that includes all modern species.

However, the most important find was that of the large mammal. Researchers believe it was about the size of a raccoon – huge compared to all other mammals at the time, which were mostly no larger than a rat.

Marco Marzola, one of the study authors, told IBTimes UK there is no way of telling to what species the mystery mammal belongs as you cannot identify animals by their tracks – “the most you can say is that the track resembles the anatomy of that animal,” he explained.

“We cannot narrow down to a species but we can say they do belong to – they were made by an exceptionally large mammal – that we can say for sure.”

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