Several animal species, which are either extinct or seen only in Africa, thrived 40,000 to 50,000 years ago in the wilds of Purulia, Bankura and West Midnapore districts of West Bengal. The species include Siwalik antelope, Siwalik nilgai, Siwalik cattle, porcupine (Hystrix crassidens), Siwalik equid, African lion (Panthera leo), Siwalik elephant, giraffe and spotted hyenas.
Of these, many have disappeared from the face of the earth. Siwalik antelope, Siwalik nilgai, Siwalik cattle, porcupine (Hystrix crassidens), Siwalik equid and Siwalik elephant disappeared several thousand years ago. However, African lion, giraffe and spotted hyena are still found, though only found in Africa.
This has been published in a recent report published by the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI). A senior palaeontologist of the ZSI, TK Pal, along with his team, had several years back stumbled upon the remains of these animals preserved in two caves located in the Susunia Hills of Bankura.
According to Pal, in 1980-81, he and his team had recovered remains of the animals from the caves of Susunia and other surrounding areas of Jangalmahal. The remains were preserved in the ZSI laboratory and it was decided to conduct tests on them to determine their age prior to publishing a full report on the zoo-archaeological remains of Bengal.
The lab tests have revealed that the animal remains were 50,000 years old. According to ZSI, this constitutes the first such kind of discovery in West Bengal and, for that matter, in eastern India.
Pal explained that several experiments have shown that in the area now spanning the three districts, the land mass, geology and climate were not the same as now. The sea level, including that of the Red sea, was then much lower and there existed an African route stretching from today's Himalyan region to Africa through Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The emeritus scientist explained that the Gondwana land mass – the supercontinent that comprised most of the landmasses of today's southern hemisphere, including Australia, Madagascar, Antarctica, South America, Arabian Peninsula and the Indian subcontinent, bumped into the Eurasian landmass creating the African route for the animals to migrate and roam into these areas in search of food and water.
The prehistoric marsupial lion (RedOrbit)
Lead image: Top 10 List Land