Prehistoric Creature Feature 2
Gophers! These cute, fuzzy, brown creatures we open see popping in and out of holes in the spring time are a staple animal here in North America. They are so well know that they became the mascot for the University of Minnesota football team (who just happens to have lost 46 games to The Ohio State University Buckeyes!).
All jokes aside, gophers are interesting creatures spending most of their time under ground, but have they always done this? What were the gophers of the past like? Buckle your seatbelts as we travel through Deep Time, into the gopher hole!
Gophers first appeared during the Chadronian Age, which is represents about 38 to 32.9 million years ago. They looked pretty similar to the gophers we see today except.....they were much much larger some weighing up to 5lbs. I know what you're thinking, that is not very big, but for gopher standards it is, as modern gophers only weigh around 1-2 lbs. on average.
There is however a few select gophers who take the cake when it comes to being bizarre. One of which I want to highlight. The gopher group called mylagaulids all had rhino like horns on top of their heads. There are only 6 species know from this group, with the latest being described and named this past summer by Drs. Jonathan Calede, and Justin Samuels.
Ceratogaulus cornutasagma, would have used their horns for protection. At this time they were burrowing holes just like they do in modern times. Imagine seeing 6inch horns popping out of a hole (Pretty scary!). This adaptation or change allowed them to spend time outside of their burrowing holes, to hunt for food on the surface. Their horns helped protect them from larger animals who may have wanted to eat them. Scientists have noticed that the 6 species of these horned gophers had changed throughout time with the horns getting larger and larger, which we can account for as new predators or enemies may have entered their habitats.
What do you think of these bizarre creatures? Be sure to leave comments below!
Thanks for reading!
Jonathan J. M. Calede & Joshua X. Samuels (2020): A new species of Ceratogaulus from Nebraska and the evolution of nasal horns in Mylagaulidae (Mammalia, Rodentia, Aplodontioidea), Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, DOI: 10.1080/14772019.2020.1765889