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Have land bridge, will travel.

Have land bridge, will travel

A fossil of a giant anteater, found in the Sonoran Desert, 175miles southeast of San Diego, has prompted scientists to add a new family to the list of animals that crossed from South America to Central America approximately 1 million years ago. South America had been isolated from its neighbors to the north until tectonic forces created the Panamanian land bridge 3 million years ago, enabling the anteaters to range as far as this desert in northern Mexico.

This is the first record of the giant anteater in North America,says paleontologist H. Gregory McDonald of the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History. Currently, giant anteaters do not live farther north than Guatemala.

The anteater cannot survive in the subtropical conditions ofthe modern Sonoran Desert, with its cool nights and scarcity of ants and termites. Therefore, the fossil find helps establish that this area has only recently -- in geologic terms -- acquired a desert climate, says McDonald, who reported the find with Cristopher Shaw of Los Angeles's George C. Page Museum in the April 10 SCIENCE.

In the Great American Faunal Interchange, terrestrial speciesfrom both sides of the Panamanian land bridge slowly migrated across into areas that were ecologically favorable. Before the present find, paleontologists had identified only nine other families of northbound "invaders."
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Title Annotation:fossil of giant anteater found in Sonoran Desert
Publication:Science News
Date:May 9, 1987
Words:217
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