When is a mammal really a reptile? When it is a Myotragus balearicus, of course! Although extinct, the discovery of a goat that was cold-blooded is a very interesting find. Myotragus balearicus lived on a Mediterranean island (now Majorca), with scarce resources, so they did what all good reptiles do – they adjusted their growth rate and metabolism.
In a paper published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, we found out that the:
… developmental pattern denotes that Myotragus, much like extant reptiles, synchronized its metabolic requirements with fluctuating resource levels. Our results suggest that developmental and physiological plasticity was crucial to the survival of this and, perhaps, other large mammals on resource-limited Mediterranean Islands, yet it eventually led to their extinction through a major predator, Homo sapiens.
In other words, this goat species (and perhaps other mammals on the island as well) did a fine job of emulating the reptiles’ ability to survive in harsh conditions by fluctuating its growth and metabolism rates based on the availability of food, but then humans came along and wiped them out anyway.