Cartoon-like mammal survived the mass extinction of the dinosaurs to flourish in the new world conditions.
Carissa Raymond, a sophomore at the the University of Nebraska, discovered the fossils during an archaeological dig in the New Mexico desert. Raymond, making her first dig, spotted a few teeth and part of the animal’s skull and called to the project leader, Thomas Williamson, curator at the Museum of Natural History and Science, and he knew right away that something special had been discovered.
Williamson said in a press release from the University of Nebraska, “It’s rare for anybody to find one of these. I wish I had found it.”
New Mexico, now a dry desert, was a semitropical forest the time of the Kimbetopsalis, and would have been a nourishing environment for such an animal. The fossil teeth indicated the rodent-like mammal had huge incisors that would have been useful for chewing on plants.
Sarah Shelley, a paleontologist at the University of Edinburgh and a co-author on the paper said the teeth of a fossil are one of the best finds. They can tell you a lot about the animal by what the animal was able to eat. Examining the tooth fragments, Shelly and her colleagues were able to understand how the animal may have looked and how it survived.
Despite the animal’s similarity to modern-day mammals, the Kimbetopsalis has no living descendants. However, it lived for about 160 million years and is one of the longest-living groups of mammals in history, longer than any mammal species that is living today.
The catastrophic impact of the asteroid and the resulting devastation of life on the planet changed the course of history. Large reptiles, despite their massive size and strength, could not cope with the climatic changes and perished, giving rise to another type of animal. Included among those was a an ape-like creature that eventually became the modern humans that now hold a dominant place in nature once held by the dinosaurs.