The fossil of a small mammal resembling squirrels in Jammu & Kashmir’s Ramnagar area could hold the key to determining the true age of the region.
The fossils, resembling treeshrew squirrels, belong to a new genus and species. The treeshrew currently represents the oldest record of fossil tupaiids in the Siwalik range, extending their time range by 2.5-4.0 million years, and can help provide a more precise age estimate for the locality lying in Udhampur district.
Sediments in the Siwalik document the evolution of several mammalian species, including hedgehogs, treeshrews, and other small mammals, from the middle Miocene period through the Pleistocene period. Treeshrews are very rare elements of fossil record with only a few species known throughout the Cenozoic era.
Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology scientists found fossils of the new genus and species of treeshrew from the middle Miocene (from 23.03 to 5.33 million years ago) site of Ramnagar.
A dietary analysis suggests that the new tupaiid was adapted for a less mechanically challenging or more fruit-eating diet compared to other fossil tupaiids. Additionally, new hedgehog and rodent specimens have been described from the same fossil locality.
The murine rodents are particularly important because different species and dental features are well-known to be time sensitive, as documented throughout a continuous Siwalik sequence on Pakistan’s Potwar plateau. As a result, the identification of the time-sensitive dental features in the current collection help to provide a more precise age estimate for the locality as between 12.7-11.6 million years.
Th research was led by Dr Ramesh Kumar Sehgal, Dr Ningthoujam Premjit Singh, and Abhishek Pratap Singh from Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology in association with researches from Panjab University Chandigarh, Hunter College of the City University of New York, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, Arizona State University, and the American Museum of Natural History. The study was recently published in the Journal of Paleontology.