Monday 4 June 2018

Miocene Animals At The Geotime Diorama, Petrosains

What is the Miocene epoch?
1. Miocene epoch is the first epoch that occurred during the Neogene Period, spanning about 23.03 to 5.333 million years ago. The Miocene epoch occurred after the Oligocene epoch and is followed by the Pliocene epoch. Following the warmer Oligocene epoch, the Miocene epoch gradually cooled with its series of ice ages. 

2. During the Miocene, the land bridge connecting North America and South America was yet to fully form. The Himalayas were forming because India collided with the rest of Asia due to the process of plate tectonics. Animals (especially mammals) became more recognizably modern and widespread.

What are the Miocene animals shown at the Geotime Diorama of Petrosains?
1. The animals displayed are Moropus, Platybelodon and a pair of Synthetocerases.

What was the Moropus?
1. The Moropus (the name means “slow foot”) was a 5-meter-long mammal from the grassy plains of North America that belonged to an extinct group of animals called the chalicotheres. This genus lived from 23 to 13.5 million years ago.

2. Its head resembled that of a horse, rhinoceros and tapir. On its long forelegs, there were huge claws pointing forwards (unlike those of other chalicotheres that pointed backwards as walking on their forelegs were by the knuckles) that were possibly used defensively against other predators or to dig up roots. It had shorter but strong hind-legs that were used to lift its frontal part of the body to reach taller vegetation. As a browser, it had flexible joints in its neck to allow it to reach taller vegetation as well as to reach low-lying vegetation.


What was the Platybelodon?
1. The Platybelodon (the name means “flat-spear tusk”) was a 4-meter-long elephant from the Riverlands of Caucasus and Asia. This genus lived from about 7 to 5.333 million years ago.

2. As a semi-aquatic rooter, it had flat tusks at the lower jaw to scrape bark from trees as well as to shovel up plants in the mud. Its broad muscular trunk was used to draw vegetation and food into its mouth. Elephants in the Miocene became more and more recognizable and slowly grew in size in terms of species.


What were the Synthetoceras?
1. The Synthetoceras (the name means “combined horn”) was a 2-meter-long artiodactyl from the grassy plains of Texas, USA. This genus lived from about 13.6 (right after the Moropus went extinct) to 5.333 million years ago.

2. The Synthetoceras was a grazer, thus it fed on grass. It had horned ornaments on its head that were aggressive displays of dominance among males. The Synthetoceras belonged to an extinct group of animals called the properties.


Why is This Science Important / Relevant to Us?
1. The study of prehistoric animals (aside from the three animals mentioned above which are displayed at the Diorama station of Petrosains) helps us to understand the history of our planet earth: allowing us to predict the circumstances of future events on the planet in comparison to past events. This study allows us to understand living things in the present better.

2. The oil reserves discovered at the offshore Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia are of primary Miocene age. Understanding the conditions and environment of the Miocene epoch would assist us in understanding the process of formation of our oil reserves.


Shared by Rizal Lai
Guest Blogger

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