Sunday, September 14, 2008

The strange prehistory of Madagascar

Madagascar, sometimes called "the eighth continent," is filled with bizarre and unique mammals. When David Krause of Stony Brook University went there looking for early mammalian fossils, he expected a rich body of results. What he found instead were surprisingly scanty mammalian remains, but a horde of dinosaurs and crocodilians. Not a single fossil traceable to an ancestral lemur, for example, turned up. The mammals, unique as they are, seem to be relatively recent imports. Their ancestors must have traveled to the island after the Cretaceous, when it was already an island, and established an ecosystem that survived and prospered, developing many new forms, through its isolation.

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