Using ancient teeth found in an Israeli desert, scientists have identified a new species of rodent that lived millions of years ago. The creature is a precursor of the current-day the gundi, a rodent also known as a comb rat that lives in Africa.
The newly-discovered species went extinct almost 18 million years ago, but has only now been identified and named: it's been dubbed Sayimys negevensis, which references the Negev Desert where the teeth were found.
The discovery of the extinct little rodent helps scientists better understand the routes animals took between Eurasia and Africa during a time period called the the Early Miocene (23 million years ago to 16 million years ago), and the role that Israel played as a connection point between the two land masses.
"The fossil sites of Israel are in a unique position to offer data on the early times of the large waves of faunal exchanges that took place around 19 million years ago between Eurasia and Africa," Raquel Lopez-Antoñanzas, a senior researcher at the University of Bristol, who led the research, said in a statement.
The international team of researchers published their findings earlier this month in the journal PLOS ONE.