Massive ‘Crazy Beast’ That Lived Among Last Of The Dinosaurs Discovered
An ancient mammal that lived among some of the last dinosaurs to walk the Earth has been dubbed the ‘crazy beast’ after its remains were discovered.
The 66-million-year-old fossil challenges previous assumptions that mammals were typically very small, like the size of mice, at this point in their evolutionary history.
Researchers say this particular mammal was two-foot long and weighed almost seven pounds, and it hadn’t even reached its full adult size when it perished. To put it into perspective, a modern brown rat weighs just seven ounces and measures less than 12 inches.
The badger-like creature, named Adalatherium hui, had three huge curved front fangs, an unusually short, stubby tail, and a large collection of nerves in the snout – a feature frequently seen in burrowing animals.
‘It is so strange compared to any other mammal, living or extinct,’ said paleontologist David Krause of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, who led the research, as per Science News. ‘It was just crazy.’
That would explain the name Adalatherium hui, from a Malagasy word meaning ‘crazy’ and the Greek word for ‘beast’. Krause said the discovery was so crazy because it ‘bends and even breaks lots of rules’, making it difficult to imagine how it might have evolved.
The fossil specimen was found in 1999 in north-west Madagascar’s Mahajanga Basin, and is the first almost complete fossil of a mammal from Gondwana – an ancient southern supercontinent that once included India and Africa – during the time of dinosaurs.
But because of its strange and unique features, the fossil evaded classification for nearly 20 years. Adalatherium belonged to a group known as the Gondwanatheria, and only isolated jaws, teeth and a single skull had been found – until now, with the researchers’ findings published in the journal Nature.
Professor Krause said:
The front teeth – two at the top and one at the bottom – were very large and had enamel on only one side. We believe they were used for gnawing and the back teeth for slicing up vegetation of some kind. In other words, Adalatherium was likely a plant-eater.
Based on its big skull we think it was probably a digger – and it possibly made burrows. This is indicated by some badger-like features – powerful hind limbs and a short, stubby tail.
Co-author Simone Hoffmann, of the New York Institute of Technology, described the mammal as ‘the oddest of oddballs’, adding: ‘Trying to figure out how it moved is nearly impossible because, for instance, its front end is telling us a different story than its back end.’
Adalatherium is a ‘missing link’ in mammal evolution, with Professor Krause saying scientists ‘know precious little about the evolution of early mammals in the southern hemisphere’. Now, they finally have a complete skeleton to work with.
This particular animal is believed to have been killed in a landslide and buried under wet mud which helped preserve its remains.
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