Early Mammals

Early Mammals News -- ScienceDaily Prehistoric Mammal News. From the first swimming mammals to a banana-jawed fossil mammal, read about all the news in paleontology. Current science articles and images.

  • 'Star dust' wasp is a new extinct species named after David Bowie's alter ego
    on June 22, 2017 at 2:40 pm

    During her study on fossil insects at China's Capitol Normal University, a student visited the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, USA, carrying two unidentified wasp specimens that were exceptionally well-preserved and 100 million years old. Close examination revealed that both were species new to science. Furthermore, one of them was found to belong to a genus of modern wasps. […]

  • Reconstruction of ancient chromosomes offers insight into mammalian evolution
    on June 21, 2017 at 6:51 pm

    Researchers have gone back in time, at least virtually, computationally recreating the chromosomes of the first eutherian mammal, the long-extinct, shrewlike ancestor of all placental mammals. […]

  • Brazilian carnivorous mammal-like reptile fossil may be new Aleodon species
    on June 14, 2017 at 6:15 pm

    Some Late Triassic Brazilian fossils of mammal-like reptiles, previously identified as Chiniquodon, may in fact be the first Aleodon specimens found outside Africa. […]

  • Ancient otter tooth found in Mexico suggests mammals migrated across America
    on June 14, 2017 at 1:29 pm

    An ancient otter tooth recently discovered in Mexico suggests certain mammals migrated across America during the Miocene geologic epoch, roughly 23 million to 5.3 million years ago. The new hypothesized route questions other theories such as migrations above Canada and through Panama, and has implications for a much larger biologic event -- the Great American Biotic Interchange, when land bridges were formed and animals dispersed to and from North America and South America. […]

  • Whales only recently evolved into giants when changing ice, oceans concentrated prey
    on May 24, 2017 at 3:00 pm

    A team of scientists have traced the evolution of whale size through more than 30 million years of history and found that very large whales appeared along several branches of the family tree about 2 to 3 million years ago. Increasing ice sheets in the Northern Hemisphere during this period likely altered the way whales' food was distributed in the oceans and enhanced the benefits of a large body size, the scientists say. […]

  • Warm-bloodedness possibly much older than previously thought
    on May 18, 2017 at 2:41 pm

    Warm-bloodedness in land animals could have evolved much earlier than previously thought, suggests a study of the bones of the long-extinct mammal predecessor Ophiacodon. […]

  • Secrets behind T. rex's bone crushing bites: T. rex could crush with 8,000 pound bite forces
    on May 17, 2017 at 1:05 pm

    The giant Tyrannosaurus rex pulverized bones by biting down with forces equaling the weight of three small cars while simultaneously generating world record tooth pressures, according to a new study. […]

  • A mammoth task: How do we decide which species to resurrect?
    on May 16, 2017 at 1:26 pm

    The resurrection of vanished species -- through cutting-edge technologies such as gene-editing -- should be targeted towards recently extinct species rather than ancient ones, according to a conservation biologist. He suggests that long-gone species such as the woolly mammoth would not be the best focus for de-extinction efforts. […]

  • Baleen whales' ancestors were toothy suction feeders
    on May 11, 2017 at 6:20 pm

    Modern whales' ancestors probably hunted and chased down prey, but somehow, those fish-eating hunters evolved into filter-feeding leviathans. An analysis of a 36.4-million-year-old whale fossil suggests that before baleen whales lost their teeth, they were suction feeders that most likely dove down and sucked prey into their mouths. The study also shows that whales most likely lost the hind limbs that stuck out from their bodies more recently than previously estimated. […]

  • DNA from extinct humans discovered in cave sediments
    on April 27, 2017 at 6:17 pm

    Researchers have developed a new method to retrieve hominin DNA from cave sediments -- even in the absence of skeletal remains. […]

  • Genetic evidence points to nocturnal early mammals
    on April 20, 2017 at 6:17 pm

    New genetic evidence suggesting that early mammals had good night-time vision adds to fossil and behavioral studies indicating that early mammals were nocturnal. […]

  • Giant sloth was vegetarian: Diet of fossil megatherium decoded
    on April 18, 2017 at 1:48 pm

    Scientists have examined the diet of the extinct Giant Sloth Megatherium. Based on analyses of the collagen in the fossil bones, the researchers concluded in their study that Megatherium subsisted on an exclusively vegetarian diet. Until recently, there had been much speculation about the food habits of these elephant-sized, ground-dwelling animals. […]

  • The last 'caimans' living in Spain
    on March 29, 2017 at 2:24 pm

    Sixteen million years ago, the reptile Diplocynodon ratelii lived in wooded ecosystems among the lakes and pools of what we know today as Catalonia (Spain). Fossils found at the Els Casots site in the Vallès-Penedès Basin confirm not only that these are the most recent remains of the genus in the Iberian Peninsula, but also that temperatures at the time were higher than today's. […]

  • How chewing like a cow helped early mammals thrive
    on March 23, 2017 at 4:54 pm

    Mammal teeth, jaw bones and muscles evolved to produce side-to-side motions of the jaw, or yaw, that allowed our earliest ancestors to grind food with their molars and eat a more diversified diet, suggests a new report. […]

  • 430 million-year-old fossil named in honor of Sir David Attenborough
    on March 22, 2017 at 1:23 pm

    A new 430 million-year-old fossil has been discovered by scientists, and has been named in honor of Sir David Attenborough. The discovery is a unique example of its kind in the fossil record, say the authors of a new report. […]

  • Human skull evolved along with two-legged walking, study confirms
    on March 17, 2017 at 5:12 pm

    The evolution of bipedalism in fossil humans can be detected using a key feature of the skull -- a claim that was previously contested but now has been further validated by researchers. […]

  • Pattern of mammal dwarfing during global warming
    on March 15, 2017 at 10:26 pm

    More than 50 million years ago, when the Earth experienced a series of extreme global warming events, early mammals responded by shrinking in size. While this mammalian dwarfism has previously been linked to the largest of these events, new research has found that this evolutionary process can happen in smaller, so-called hyperthermals, indicating an important pattern that could help shape an understanding of underlying effects of current human-caused climate change. […]

  • The controversial origin of a symbol of the American west
    on March 13, 2017 at 8:08 pm

    New research has identified North America's oldest bison fossils and helped construct a bison genealogy establishing that a common maternal ancestor arrived between 130,000 and 195,000 years ago, during a previous ice age. […]

  • Crocodiles and dolphins evolved similar skulls to catch the same prey
    on March 8, 2017 at 2:24 pm

    Despite their very different ancestors, dolphins and crocodiles evolved similarly shaped skulls to feed on similar prey, new research indicates. […]

  • Evolution of bipedalism in ancient dinosaur ancestors
    on March 3, 2017 at 4:06 pm

    Paleontologists have developed a new theory to explain why the ancient ancestors of dinosaurs stopped moving about on all fours and rose up on just their two hind legs. […]

  • Woolly mammoths experienced a genomic meltdown just before extinction
    on March 2, 2017 at 7:39 pm

    Dwindling populations created a 'mutational meltdown' in the genomes of the last woolly mammoths, which had survived on an isolated island until a few thousand years ago, report researchers. […]

  • Newfound primate teeth take a big bite out of the evolutionary tree of life
    on February 28, 2017 at 1:42 pm

    Fossil hunters have found part of an ancient primate jawbone related to lemurs -- the primitive primate group distantly connected to monkeys, apes and humans, a researcher reports. Scientists named the new species Ramadapis sahnii and said that it existed 11 to 14 million years ago. It is a member of the ancient Sivaladapidae primate family, consumed leaves and was about the size of a house cat. […]

  • New insights into the mechanisms into how ungulates got bigger in the Neogene
    on February 27, 2017 at 1:25 pm

    The observed increase of body size in ungulates during the 20 million years before the Pleistocene is driven by the process of species selection, according to researchers. Bigger ungulate species became more common because of a higher origination and lower extinction rate. The study is the first to compare the evolution of two mammalian clades during the Neogene on two continents. The researchers point out that this biogeographic perspective yields complex explanations for apparently shared patterns. […]

  • In the developing ears of opossums, echoes of evolutionary history
    on February 16, 2017 at 3:40 pm

    Hidden in the development of opossums is one possible version of the evolutionary path that led from the simple ears of reptiles to the more elaborative and sensitive structures of mammals, including humans, animal scientists have discovered. […]

  • Fossil discovery rewrites understanding of reproductive evolution
    on February 14, 2017 at 6:05 pm

    A remarkable 250-million-year-old 'terrible-headed lizard' fossil found in China shows an embryo inside the mother -- clear evidence for live birth. The fossil unexpectedly provided the first evidence for live birth in an animal group previously thought to exclusively lay eggs. […]

  • Persistent tropical foraging in the highlands of terminal Pleistocene/Holocene New Guinea
    on February 7, 2017 at 3:53 pm

    The terminal Pleistocene/Holocene boundary represented a major ecological threshold for humans, both as a significant climate transition and due to the emergence of agriculture around this time. In the highlands of New Guinea, climatic and environmental changes across this period have been highlighted as potential drivers of one of the earliest domestication processes in the world. Researchers present a terminal Pleistocene/Holocene palaeoenvironmental record of carbon and oxygen isotopes in small mammal tooth enamel from the site of Kiowa. […]

  • Genomes in flux: New study reveals hidden dynamics of bird and mammal DNA evolution
    on February 6, 2017 at 8:59 pm

    Evolution is often thought of as a gradual remodeling of the genome, the genetic blueprints for building an organism. But in some instance it might be more appropriate to call it an overhaul. Over the past 100 million years, the human lineage has lost one-fifth of its DNA, while an even greater amount was added, report scientists. Until now, the extent to which our genome has expanded and contracted had been underappreciated. […]

  • Ice Age 'skeleton crew' offers insights for today’s endangered species
    on January 12, 2017 at 6:10 pm

    The ghosts of Ice Age mammals can teach valuable, real-world lessons about what happens to an ecosystem when its most distinct species go extinct, according to a new study. […]

  • Retroviruses 'almost half a billion years old'
    on January 10, 2017 at 2:46 pm

    Retroviruses -- the family of viruses that includes HIV -- are almost half a billion years old, according to new research. That's several hundred million years older than previously thought and suggests retroviruses have ancient marine origins, having been with their animal hosts through the evolutionary transition from sea to land. The findings will help us understand more about the continuing 'arms race' between viruses and their hosts. […]

  • Biologists follow 'fossilizable' clues to pinpoint when mammal, bird and dinosaur ancestors became...
    on December 22, 2016 at 6:04 pm

    A new study is the first to draw a link between RBC size and microscopic traces of blood vessels and bone cells inside bones. They found that extinct mammal and bird relatives had smaller RBCs and were likely better athletes than earlier terrestrial vertebrates. The timing of RBC-size reduction coincided with Earth's greatest mass extinction 252 mya. […]