Ancient mouse-size creature uproots mammal family tree

Ancient mouse-size creature uproots mammal family tree

Three-dimensional computer models of fossils from a tiny mouse-size creature that lived about 210 million years ago in what is now Greenland clear up a long-standing mammal mystery. The high-tech analysis of the fossils suggests that mammals originated more than 30 million years more recently than previously suggested, the researchers say. Paleontologists analyzed fossils of haramiyids, extinct relatives of modern mammals that lived about 210 million years ago. For decades, researchers only had isolated teeth from haramiyids, stymying investigations into where these creatures fit on the mammalian family tree. This uncertainty about where haramiyids belonged raised two possibilities. One was that haramiyids were crown mammals — the branch of the mammal family tree that all modern mammals descend from — suggesting that mammals began to diversify more than 210 million years ago in the Triassic Period. The other was that haramiyids occupied a separate branch at the base of the mammal family tree, suggesting instead that mammalian diversification began about 175 million years ago in the Jurassic Period. To help solve this mystery, scientists analyzed a remarkably well-preserved jaw from a haramiyid species known as Haramiyavia clemmenseni, discovered in Greenland in 1995. Read More: Fox News
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