What is it about?

The extent and timing of paleoenvironmental connections between Africa and Eurasia during the last glacial and interglacial periods are key issues in relation to early dispersals of Homo sapiens out of Africa. However, direct evidence of synchronous faunal dispersals is sparse. We report the discovery near the Dead Sea of subfossils belonging to an ancient relative of the eastern African crested rat dated to between ∼42,000 and at least 103,000 y ago. Morphological comparisons, ancient DNA, and ecological modeling suggest that the Judean Desert was greener in the past and that continuous habitat corridors connected eastern Africa with the Levant.

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Why is it important?

Our finding strengthens the hypothesis that early human dispersals were prompted by climatic changes and Late Pleistocene intercontinental connectivity, without the need for technological or behavioral prerequisites.

Perspectives

Crested rats are really cool and unique animals, one of the few mammals that have the ability to become poisonous. The discovery of fossil crested rats in the desert was surprising and it was extremely exciting to uncover the story of these fossils using different proxies and working with a multidisciplinary team.

Ignacio A Lazagabaster
Museum für Naturkunde Berlin

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This page is a summary of: Rare crested rat subfossils unveil Afro–Eurasian ecological corridors synchronous with early human dispersals, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, July 2021, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2105719118.
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