Tuesday 28 February 2012

Ancient tracks are elephant herd

A seven-million-year-old trail of fossilised footprints in the Arabian desert was left by a herd of ancient elephants, according to scientists.
Researchers say the "trackways" reveal that animals that left them had a rich and complex social structure.
Just like modern elephant society, this consisted of family herds and of solitary male animals.
Lead researcher Dr Faysal Bibi, a palaeontologist based at the University of Poitiers in France and the Museum of Natural History in Berlin, Germany, described the footprints as "fossilised behaviour".
Dr Bibi explained to BBC Nature that there were two different sets of tracks across the site.
"We have tracks from a herd, from which we calculated the size profile [of each animal]," he said.
"And, just by luck, we also have the trackway of a solitary individual travelling almost perpendicular to the herd."
Dr Bibi described the site as "absolutely unique".
"[It's] a really rare opportunity in the fossil record that lets you see animal behaviour in a way you couldn't do with bones or teeth," he said.
Although the area near Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates has been known to locals for generations, it was first studied by scientists in 2001.
Dr Bibi explained that a colleague of his, Mark Beech, was taking part in an archaeological excavation nearby.
"A local man named Mubarak Bin Rashid al-Mansouri - who knows the desert there like the back of his hand - led [Mark] to the site," he explained.
Read on:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/17102135

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