Ancient swamp creature sported ‘Mick Jagger’ lips


Top and side views of the jaw bone of an ancient swamp creature. Researchers named the animal after Mick Jagger for its highly sensitive snout and lips. (Gregg Gunnell, Duke Lemur Center)

Joan Rivers once said Mick Jagger’s lips are so big he could French-kiss a moose, and now the Rolling Stones frontman’s lips have inspired the name of an ancient swamp creature that probably also had a set of huge smackers.

Researchers named the creature Jaggermeryx naida, which translates to “Jagger’s water nymph,” a reference to the creature’s Jagger-like lips and its swamp habitat. The jawbone fossils of the creature suggest that, when it was alive some 19 million years ago, it was deer-sized and likely resembled a cross between a small hippo and a long-legged pig. A series of holes along the jawbone sets Jaggermeryx apart from other species in its group. The holes likely held nerve endings for the chin and lower lip that would have given the animal a set of super-sized and sensitive lips, the researchers said.

“The animal probably had a highly innervated muzzle with mobile and tactile lips, thus the Jagger reference,” Gregg Gunnell, a paleontologist at Duke University and co-author of the study describing the creature, said in a statement. [StarStruck: 16 Species Named After Celebrities]

Traces of various isotopes (atoms of the same element with different numbers of neutrons) in the bones suggest the creature was likely a herbivore. The researchers think its sensitive snout helped the hippo-pig sniff out food in swamplands, and its Jagger-esque lips and jutting lower teeth helped it gobble up plants.

Jaggermeryxbelongs to an extinct group of small hoofed animals called anthracotheres. Researchers unearthed the fossils in the Wadi Moghra desert in Egypt, but geological records show that millions of years ago the area was likely a tropical delta filled with swamps. Jaggermeryx is one of six species within the anthracotheres group discovered in the area.

While they can differentiate anthracotheres by species based on jawbones, the researchers note in their paper published in the journal Paleontology that it’s difficult to tell male and female anthracotheres apart. The recovered fossils are now housed at Duke, the Cairo Geological Museum and Cairo University.

The two co-authors of the study describing the swamp creatureare big Jagger fans. Ellen Miller, a physical anthropologist at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, just finished reading the autobiography of Keith Richards, Jagger’s Rolling Stones bandmate. Gunnell calls himself a “huge Rolling Stones fan” and said “Exile on Main Street” and “Let it Bleed” are his favorite albums.

“Some of my colleagues suggested naming the new species after Hollywood star Angelina Jolie, because she also has famous lips. But for me it had to be Mick,” Miller said in the statement.