facebook
twitter
rss
account
search
search
 

'Proto-mammal' fossil shows evolutionary path to modern creatures

Aug. 7, 2013 at 4:36 PM   |   Comments

CHICAGO, Aug. 7 (UPI) -- A newly discovered fossil of a "proto-mammal" is yielding clues to the evolution of the world's earliest mammals, University of Chicago biologists report.

The fossil of an ancient mammalian relative, Megaconus mammaliaformis, reveals the evolutionary adaptations of a 165-million-year-old proto-mammal, providing evidence traits such as hair and fur originated well before the rise of the first true mammals, the researchers said.

"We finally have a glimpse of what may be the ancestral condition of all mammals, by looking at what is preserved in Megaconus," Zhe-Xi Luo, a professor of biology and anatomy, said. "It allows us to piece together poorly understood details of the critical transition of modern mammals from pre-mammalian ancestors."

Discovered in Inner Mongolia, China, Megaconus is one of the best-preserved fossils of the mammaliaform groups, long-extinct relatives to modern mammals that shared the Earth with feathered dinosaurs in the Jurassic era nearly 100 million years before Tyrannosaurus Rex roamed Earth.

The fossil shows a clear halo of guard hairs and underfur residue, making Megaconus -- a terrestrial animal about the size of a large ground squirrel -- only the second known pre-mammalian fossil with fur, the researchers said.

"We cannot say that Megaconus is our direct ancestor, but it certainly looks like a great-great-grand uncle 165 million years removed," Luo said. "These features are evidence of what our mammalian ancestor looked like during the Triassic-Jurassic transition."

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
Featured UPI Collection
trending
Celebrity Couples of 2014 [PHOTOS]

Celebrity Couples of 2014 [PHOTOS]

Most Popular
1
Boeing may build NASA's space taxi Boeing may build NASA's space taxi
2
Proposed Texas textbooks teach climate change skepticism Proposed Texas textbooks teach climate change skepticism
3
The NSA will now map out the entire Internet The NSA will now map out the entire Internet
4
Humpback whale rescued off Maine coast Humpback whale rescued off Maine coast
5
Dogs are the favorite food of leopards in rural India Dogs are the favorite food of leopards in rural India
Trending News
Video
x
Feedback