(CNN) – Three new species of primitive mammals have been discovered by analyzing fossils found in the Great Dividing Basin in Wyoming. The study also indicates that these creatures evolved rapidly after the extinction of the dinosaurs about 66 million years ago.
Prehistoric mammals lived in North America a few hundred thousand years after the dinosaurs disappeared from the face of the earth. This is known as the North American Mammal Age, which covers about 328,000 years after the extinction of the dinosaurs.
Paleontologists have used lower jaw bones and teeth to reveal more details about the mammals, which were foragers, the ancestors of modern ungulates such as horses, hippos, cows, and elephants.
The early mammals that lived alongside dinosaurs and survived extinction were very small. Their size was generally in the range between a mouse and a rat. These newly discovered mammals were slightly larger.
Similarities with “The Hobbit”
Bjornos HoneyPerhaps the largest of these mammals was the size of a domestic cat. Part of its name comes from the character Beorn from JRR Tolkien “The Hobbit,” because the animal had swollen molars or swollen cheek teeth. In the novel, Bjorn is referred to as a “skin changer” because he was a man who could take the form of a large black bear and might have similar dental features.
The other two types are Miniconus jeanninae, It was the size of a cat with a ringed tail, And Konakodon Hittingiri, with an average size between Beornus and Miniconus.
The study was published Wednesday in the journal Journal of Systematic Paleontology.
The unique characteristics of the teeth place these mammals within the family Condilarthros Periptychidae, Which means they have vertical enamel edges and bulging premolars. These teeth would have allowed them to follow a carnivorous diet, helping them chew meat and hard plants, although it is possible that they only eat plants.
Buornus’ largest molars were about 8 millimeters long, while Miniconus featured a small opening on its molars called a parastylid, according to Madeleine Atberry, the study’s lead author, a geologist and undergraduate program assistant in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Colorado Boulder.
“When dinosaurs became extinct, access to different foods and environments allowed mammals to thrive, rapidly diversify their dental anatomy, and develop larger body sizes,” Atberry said. “They clearly took advantage of this opportunity, as we can see from the radiation from new mammal species that occurred in a relatively short period after the mass extinction.”
The fossils used in this research were collected by paleontologists James, Janine Honey and Malcolm McKenna between 2001 and 2011 in the Great Dividing Basin in the Wyoming Red Desert. Two of the species names include nods to the honey family.
“From this specific region, they collected approximately 420 mammalian fossils, and our paper is only the second to publish a new species of ‘Condilarthro’ from this group,” said Ateberry. “We hypothesize that there are more identifiable new species from this region.”
The Great Divide fossils contribute to the idea that there was more diversity in mammals than was thought after the extinction of the dinosaurs. Also, some of these animals may have evolved further than previously known based on fossils found elsewhere, according to Jaylene Eberl, study co-author, University of Colorado Boulder professor of geosciences and curator of the university’s Museum of Natural History. .
Research is lacking to complete the history of primitive mammals
“Perhaps what surprises me is that we (the largest mammalian fossil community) somehow thought we had those first hundreds of thousands of years into the Paleocene. (That) who were the major players and when did they appear in the fossil record,” Eberle wrote in an email. “But I think the location of the Great Divide shows us that we haven’t fully captured the history (and diversity) of mammals after the extinction of the dinosaurs. The story isn’t over yet.”
The next question the researchers want to explore is why the diversity of early North American mammals differed in the early Su epoch. This may indicate that some areas, such as the Great Divide, have more preserved rock fragments than other sites that may have been missing from the rock record due to erosion. Or it is possible that this diversity depends on the environment in which the mammals live.
“There are a lot of things we don’t fully understand about the mammals that lived in the first hundreds of thousands of years after the dinosaurs went extinct,” Eberle said.
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