Saturday, June 14, 2014

Million-Year-Old Fossils Show Hippos Going for a Swim

By Megan Gannon
Researchers in Kenya have uncovered fossilized animal tracks, which they believe may have been left by swimming hippos 1.4 million years ago.
Credit: Courtesy of Matthew Bennett
More than a million years ago, hippopotamuses paddled across a shallow pool in the region that's now northern Kenya, occasionally scraping their feet on the sandy bottom. Today, researchers have evidence of the hippos' fleeting swim in the form of fossilized footprints.
The newly identified prints represent the first known tracks of ancient mammals taking a dip, joining previously discovered trace fossils left behind by swimming dinosaurs, turtles and crocodiles, the researchers said.
The hippo foot impressions were found in Kenya's Koobi Fora region, which is part of the Lake Turkana Basin, considered the cradle of human evolution because the area contains some of the oldest fossils from hominins — a group that comprises multiple species that came after Homo, the human lineage, split from chimpanzees. In fact, early humans may have witnessed the aquatic adventures of these ancient hippos; hominin footprints were discovered on the same geologic surface a mere 230 feet (70 meters) from the hippo tracks.
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