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Petrified half-mammal skull, half reptile can rewrite history





Scientists found a fossilized skull of a reptile-like mammal under the foot of a dinosaur fossil in Utah. The discovery could rewrite the old story because of its implications for theories surrounding the supercontinent Pangea.
( Nature )

The discovery of the fossilized skull of a semi-mammal and half-reptilian creature could rewrite the old story, especially in terms of the timeline for the dissolution of the supercontinent Pangea.

The important find follows a similar beginning this year a dinosaur fossil in Egypt, which also provided the scientists with further evidence of the Pangea cleavage.

Scientists discovered fossil abilities of a reptile-like mammal

Scientists have exposed a dinosaur fossil excavated in southeastern Utah, another skull suspended under the foot of the fossilized herbivore.

The fossilized skull, however, did not look like it belonged to a reptile. State palaeontologist Jim Kirkland's inspection revealed that the skull belonged to a mammal.

"We have never found a mammal in these rocks there," said Kirkland after discovering the Nature journal. "This one skull turns out to be a funny joker."

The Importance of the Half-mammalian Half-Reptile Skull

The fossilized skull of the reptile-like mammal was excavated in a Cretaceous rock, about 1

45 million to 65 million years ago. The skull itself was 130 million years old, a finding that contradicts earlier theories about when the supercontinent Pangea broke apart.

The discovery of the fossil probably means that the pangea cleavage occurred more recently than scientists thought. The finding also indicates that a group of reptile-like mammals bridging the transition between reptiles and mammals saw an "evolutionary outbreak" on several continents.

The new species, called Cifelliodon wahkarmoosuch, is a haramiyid, the rabbit-like creatures that were present in Eurasia from the Jurassic and Triassic periods to the early Cretaceous, when the landmasses were completely shattered. However, the discovery of the fossilized skull in Utah provides evidence that there were haramids in North America at that time, suggesting that the division of Pangea went on about 15 million years later than theorized.

It is believed that the cifelliodone weighed up to 2.5 pounds and was about the size of a small rabbit. It also had teeth that could pinch, shear and crush like fruit-eating bats. The cifelliodone was large for a mammal during his time, as most other mammals were the size of mice.

The new Pangea smashing theory follows a January report regarding the giant herbivorous dinosaur Mansourasaurus shahinae in the Egyptian Sahara. The discovery of the well-preserved fossil indicated that dinosaurs in Africa and Eurasia were also moving after continental movement and controversial theories that Africa-based dinosaurs were completely isolated in the Cretaceous.

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