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Protein the clue to solving a Darwinian mystery

Posted on 20 March 2015

Scientists at the University of York provided the key to solving the evolutionary puzzle surrounding what Charles Darwin called the ‘strangest animals ever discovered’.

Published today in Nature, their remarkable technical feat in obtaining a molecular phylogeny based on Pleistocene protein sequences is a first, which could herald a new chapter in palaeontology.

Researchers in the University’s BioArCh research facility and Centre of Excellence in Mass Spectrometry were called in by the Natural History Museum and the American Museum of Natural History to resolve the long-standing question of the fossils of Toxodon and Macrauchenia, the South American native ungulates or hooved mammals—the last of which disappeared only 10,000 years ago.

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