Scientists have studied fossils of a curious wildebeest‘s ancestor from the Ice Age found at a Rusinga Island called Bovid Hill. It seems that the mammal named Rusingoryx atopocranion had a complex nasal structure, that was also developed by a dinosaur that lived 65 million years ago.

The astonishing Rusingoryx antelope shares several common features with a group of hadrosaurs, which existed during the Cretaceous period about 145 to 66 million years ago. The mammal has a hollow bony nasal crest at the front of its face, no other animal on Earth has such a weird characteristic, according to CS Monitor.

The image shows an artist’s interpretation of Rusingoryx atopocranion on the Late Pleistocene. Credit: Todd S. Marshall

Researchers seem to suggest that the Rusingoryx atopocranion presents a case of convergent evolution, a phenomenon that is developed when two species which are not closely related, evolve similar features as a result of adapting to similar environments. The study was published in the journal Current Biology on February 4.

“We have an animal that its skeleton looks a lot like a wildebeest – it’s actually very closely related to modern wildebeests – but its face looks a lot more like something you would see if you went way back in time to the Cretaceous and looked at hadrosaur dinosaurs,”said the study lead author Haley O’Brien to The Christian Science Monitor in an interview.

Both species, the mammal and the dinosaur, were separated by two continents. The Rusingoryx atopocranion lived during the Pleistocene approximately 65 thousand years ago. On the other hand, the Lambeosaurine hadrosaurs lived during the Cretaceous about 60 million years ago.

Also, they lived in herds and fed from herbs. However, the Rusignoryx was a ruminant which lived on the dry savanna and used several vocal signals to communicate, said study lead author Haley O’Brien. The Lambeosaurine hadrosaurs lived in a tropical rainforest. That being said, she explained that its nasal crests helped them to amplify frequencies of sound to communicate.

The fascinating nose that has been studied by the team of researchers could have provided a great advantage for the two creatures, because a nasal dome could allow them to alert predators or to call their mates, even from large distances across arid plains.

David C. Evans, a vertebrate paleontologist, said to the Monitor that when he first saw the complete skulls that were found in 1983 at Bovid Hill, he was blown away. He wrote that the similarity between both creatures, “which evolved highly domed skulls to house their nasal passages on top of their heads above their eyes”, is truly remarkable.

Source: Current Biology Journal