In the remote province of Niassa, Mozambique, a new species and genus of fossil vertebrate was found. The species is a distant relative of living mammals and is approximately 256 million years old. This new species belongs to a group of animals called synapsids. Synapsida includes a number of extinct lineages that dominated the communities on land in the Late Permian (260-252 million years ago), as well as living mammals and their direct ancestors.
A team of paleontologists from nine institutions, including Kenneth Angielczyk, associate curator of paleomammology at Chicago's Field Museum, described the anatomy ofNiassodon in the scientific journal PLoS ONE. The fossil was named Niassodonm fumukasi, which means in the local language (Chiyao): the queen of Lake Niassa. The name is a tribute to the Yao matriarchal society, to the women of Mozambique and to the beauty of Lake Niassa.
The research was conducted under the auspices of Projecto PalNiassa, an international, multidisciplinary scientific collaboration that includes more than two dozen scientists from three different continents. The goal of the project is to find, study, and preserve the paleontological heritage of Mozambique.
Niassodon mfumukasi is the first new genus (and species) of a fossil vertebrate from Mozambique, and its holotype (name-bearing specimen) is a rare example of a basal synapsid that preserves the skull and much of the skeleton together.
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