Giant bamboo rat fossils dating back 6.2 million years unearthed in SW China
Published: Nov 01, 2023 07:19 PM Updated: Nov 01, 2023 07:15 PM
Photo: Courtesy of Ji Zeping

Photo: Courtesy of Ji Xueping

Fossils of four teeth of a Giant Bamboo Rat jointly found by US and Chinese scientists in Southwest China's Yunnan Province have been determined to belong to a new species dating back 6.2-6.7 million years, reported the Xinhua News Agency on Tuesday.

The discovery began in 2014, when a joint research team led by Professor Lawrence J. Flynn of Harvard University was sifting through samples of small mammal fossils at the Shuitangba fossil site in Zhaotong, Yunnan, during which four bamboo rat teeth fossils were found.

The species appeared to be several times larger than their modern descendants and much larger than bamboo rats previously found in the area. After years of comparison and analyses, scientists have officially named this newfound species the Giant Bamboo Rat.

The latest find, titled "A giant bamboo rat from the latest Miocene of Yunnan," was published at the Vertebrata Palasiatica, a quarterly journal founded in 1957 and sponsored by the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

Ji Xueping, the lead researcher on the project and researcher at the Kunming Animal Museum of the Kunming Institute of Zoology under the CAS, said that this newfound species represents yet another addition to the life forms discovered in the Shuitangba area.

The comprehensive study of the Shuitangba animal community offers valuable insights into the origins of modern biodiversity in Yunnan, he added.

This revelation underscores the immense paleobiological diversity within the layers of lignite deposits in the Shuitangba site of the Zhaotong Basin. Prior excavations in the region have already yielded an impressive array of ancient species, including the Zhaotong stegodons, the Zhaotong muntjac, the Yunnan tapir and the Zhaotong Chinese beaver, according to the Xinhua report.

Global Times