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Mystery of Darwin's 'strange animals' solved

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When Charles Darwin visited South America on HMS Beagle in the 1830s, he discovered fossils of several hefty mammals that defied classification, such as Macrauchenia, which looked like a humpless camel with a long snout; or Toxodon, with a rhino’s body, hippo’s head and rodent-like teeth — which he described as “perhaps one of the strangest animals ever discovered.â€


Since Darwin's time, no-one has been able to work out where the bizarre beasts fit in the mammalian family tree1. But now, by analysing ancient collagen protein from 12,000-year-old fossils, researchers say they have solved the puzzle. The scientists behind the work also think that ancient proteins could revolutionize the study of long-extinct species, revealing the secrets of fossils millions of years older than can be studied using DNA.



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