Researchers are constantly discovering previously unknown species, and sometimes these species have been extinct for millions of years. A team of scientists from the Florida Museum of Natural History and the University of Florida recently uncovered and identified two of the oldest species of ancient camels in Panama, Aguascalietia panamaensis and Aguascalietia minuta. The research team took advantage of a Panama Canal expansion project to search the excavation site for fossils, and their work was not in vain.
"We're discovering this fabulous new diversity of animals that lived in Central America that we didn't even know about before," said Bruce McFadden, co-author of the study. "The family originated about 30 million years ago and they're found widespread throughout North America, but prior to this discovery, they were unknown south of Mexico."
The difference between the species is mainly their size, but the researchers claim they stemmed from a different evolutionary branch than modern camels. This is made clear by the elongated jaw bone and shortened crowns on the teeth.
These discoveries are evidence that we still have much to learn about the ancient world, and many species to discover. Those embarking on expedition cruises to South America and other natural destinations should keep that in mind, as a reminder of why ecotourism and preservation of these locations are so important.
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