Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Friday 05 March |
Saint of the Day: Bl. Jeremiah of Wallachia
home iconArt & Culture
line break icon

Darwin’s “strangest animal ever” identified using DNA evidence

MACRAUCHENIA PATACHONICA

Olllga | CC

Zelda Caldwell - published on 06/30/17

Was it a llama, a rhinoceros, or what? And what was with those nostrils?

When Charles Darwin saw its fossilized remains in Patagonia he called it “the strangest animal ever discovered.”

“Imagine a camel without a hump, with feet like a slender rhino, and a head shaped like a saiga antelope,” Michael Hofreiter, a professor at the University of Potsdam, told AFP.

The Macrauchenia patachonica or “long-necked llama” also had a rubbery snout, and nostril openings placed high on its skull, just above its eyes, according to the AFP report.

Now, thanks to a new kind of genetic analysis which relies on mitochondrial DNA from the maternal side of the family, scientists have been able to decode the animal’s origins.

It turns out that the Macrauchenia was no llama. It’s actually more akin to an order known as Perissodactyla that includes horses, rhinos and tapirs.

What happened to the creature, which survived until the late Pleistocene 20,000 to 11,000 years ago, is still unexplained.

“Why it disappeared we really don’t know — it is still an open question whether it was humans, climate change, or a combination of the two,” said Hofreiter.

Tags:
Science
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
GUARDIAN ANGEL
Philip Kosloski
10 Mysterious things to know about guardian angels
2
SAINT JOSEPH AND CHILD JESUS
Philip Kosloski
10 Things you should know about St. Joseph
3
DANCING NUNS
J-P Mauro
Let these Dublin nuns raise your spirits with this viral dance
4
TRANSFIGURATION
Fr. Patrick Briscoe, OP
5 Theological truths to see in the Transfigured Christ
5
POPE AUDIENCE
Kathleen N. Hattrup
Do you know the 3 words that describe God’s style? Pope Fra...
6
LUXOR FILM FESTIVAL
Zoe Romanowsky
20-year-old filmmaker wins award for powerful 1-minute film about...
7
PADRE PIO
Philip Kosloski
Padre Pio’s favorite prayer of petition
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.