A team of researchers from Ohio State University found six new species of invertebrate animals that lived in the East African Rift region about 25 million years ago.
During a paleontological study of rift sediments in southwestern Tanzania, six new invertebrate species were discovered. The discovery belongs to Ohio State University professor Nancy Stevens and her research team. An article about this is published in the journal Papers in Palaeontology.
“From the very beginning of the project, I was intrigued because we worked on rare fossils from a very interesting geological location,” says I. Ranjeev Epa, a student at Ohio State University, who studied and identified the fossils for his scientific work. “These fossils kept many interesting stories, and I am glad that we were able to expand our knowledge of the evolutionary history, ecology and biogeography of this family.”
A new species developed in a place known today as the East African Rift, about 25 million years ago, when the Horn of Africa began to separate from the mainland due to the movement of the crust. This time interval is called the late Oligocene – this is a key period in the transition from ancient to more modern ecosystems. The research team stressed that the discovery of new species will help to understand how organisms are responsible for changes in the environment.
“The time of this evolutionary surge coincides with the beginning of the formation of the East African Rift,” says Alisha Stigall, a professor of geological sciences. “A new rift has produced new environments, and gastropods have quickly developed to use new niches.”
The fossils studied during the study were collected by Stevens and her team, which carried out paleobiological and geological research in the basin of Lake Rukwa in Tanzania for almost 20 years. Their work helped to establish the most accurate age of the beginning of the fault in the western branch of the East African rift system, as well as the earliest evidence of separation between the old world monkeys and primates.