Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Monstrous fossils 'were armadillos', says DNA evidence

22 February 2016

An extinct group of giant, armoured animals with spiky, club-shaped tails belongs firmly within the family tree of modern armadillos, according to a study of 12,000-year-old DNA.

The glyptodonts roamed South America for millions of years until the last Ice Age, and some grew as big as cars.

Their physical attributes - notably an impenetrable shell - already placed them as likely cousins of armadillos.

Now, researchers say they are not even a sister group, but a subfamily.

"Glyptodonts should probably be considered a subfamily of gigantic armadillos," said Frederic Delsuc, from the National Centre of Scientific Research (CNRS) and Montpellier University in France.

Dr Delsuc and his colleagues used computer predictions to reconstruct some likely DNA sequences of armadillo ancestors, based on the genes of living species.

They then made RNA "bait" based on these sequences and used it to fish for glyptodont DNA in a tiny, mashed-up sample of shell from a fossil in a Buenos Aires museum.

Continued ...

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