Scientists discover new things every day – this is what they do. So it would stand to reason that they should expect most of the things they discover. Still, in quite a surprising number of cases, the researchers are as baffled as common folk when it comes to some strange discoveries. As it turns out, researchers from Ohio discovered Rusingoryx – the wildebeest ancestor with a dinosaur skull.
Strange findings on Bovid Hill
In 2009, the co-authors of the study – Ohio University’s Haley O’Brien and University of Cleveland’s Tyler Faith – were informed about a digging site on Kenya’s Rusinga Island dating back to late Pleistocene. This immediately peaked their interest and they decided to investigate. Bovid Hill, as the site was named, was full of the fossilized remains of various species from the Bovidae family, a group which includes buffaloes and antelopes.
But fossils weren’t the only thing they found, as it soon became clear due to some stone tools and butchered bones found there that early modern humans were responsible for the very high concentration of Bovidae bones found at the site.
Over the years, along with the many, many remains of most likely butchered Rusingoryx atopocranion, a few skulls were also found relatively intact. The look of the Rusingoryx skulls was similarly shocking to a zebra growing horns, according to one of the study authors.
Rusingoryx’s strange skull
The strange skulls presented a weird nasal passage somehow similar to a trumpet, enabling the animals to produce a very large array of noises, including, according to the researchers, noises very close to infrasound.
Further studying the skulls, the team now suspects that the creatures were able to deepen and heighten their vocal calls, even allowing for individuals from the herd to communicate between themselves without being heard by other animals.
Only one other animal in history had a similarly developed skull, and those lived 100 to 66 million years ago. The hadrosaur dinosaurs, also known as the duck billed dinosaurs, are the only other creatures with similar skulls.
The discovery was so strange that researchers initially thought that the skulls had something to do with regulating the animals’ temperature, but they eventually realized that it served the same functions as it did for duck billed dinosaurs.
Still, the scientists don’t yet know how the mammal’s skull developed so similarly to that of a dinosaur that lived up to 100 million years ago, but they do have an idea that the social nature and herbivorous tendencies of both creatures might have had something to do with it.
Image source: Wikimedia