Waves of animals died at an ancient Spanish lake and now we know why

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By James Urquhart

fossil skeleton

Fossilised skeleton of Decennatherium rex, an ancient ancestor of giraffes

M. Martín-Perea et al, Palaeogeogr. Palaeoclimatol. Palaeoecol. (2021)

A bunch of large, now-extinct mammals – including European ancestors of giraffes, primitive horses and sabre-toothed deer – died 9 million years ago at a watering hole in Spain. Now, artificial intelligence and painstaking fossil analyses have helped solve the mystery of what happened to them.

“I like to jokingly say we are like crime scene investigators: When, how and why did it happen?” says David Martín-Perea at the National Museum of Natural Sciences in Madrid. “The only difference is our …

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