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US News Tiny Fossil Teeth May Have Belonged to Earliest Mammals

19:11  07 november  2017
19:11  07 november  2017 Source:   newsweek.com

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Paleontologists in the United Kingdom have found two tiny fossilized teeth that they believe belong to some of the earliest mammals to walk the Earth, according to a new paper What the mammal the teeth belonged to might have looked like. Dr Mark Witton, palaeo-artist, University of Portsmouth.

Tiny teeth found in England belonged to the earliest known eutherian mammals —the group that includes dogs, elephants, and humans. The fossil mammal teeth , as seen under an electron microscope.

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Paleontologists in the United Kingdom have found two tiny fossilized teeth that they believe belong to some of the earliest mammals to walk the Earth, according to a new paper published in the journal Acta Palaeontologica Polonica.

"Quite unexpectedly [undergraduate student Grant Smith] found not one but two quite remarkable teeth of a type never before seen from rocks of this age," co-author Steve Sweetman, a paleontologist at the University of Portsmouth, said in a press release. "I was asked to look at them and give an opinion and even at first glance my jaw dropped!"

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11_07_ tiny _ mammal _reconstruction. What the mammal the teeth belonged to might have looked like. Many of the most intriguing recent discoveries of early mammal fossils have been made in China, so extending the geographical range of specimens is particularly exciting.

Paleontologists in the United Kingdom have found two tiny fossilized teeth that they believe belong to some of the earliest mammals to walk the Earth, according to a new paper The mammal the teeth belonged to might have looked like this. Dr Mark Witton, palaeo-artist, University of Portsmouth.

a flock of seagulls are standing in the water © Provided by IBT Media

The fossils themselves were collected in 2015 along the southern coast of Britain about halfway between London and the western edge of the island. It's known to be a very good area for fossils—it's even nicknamed the Jurassic Coast. So the researchers gathered 120 pounds of sediment from the site and basically sieved it to see what they could find.

That turned up two tiny teeth that are about 145 million years old. Each tooth belongs to a different species, the scientists concluded, which would have lived at the same time as dinosaurs, which didn't die out until about 66 million years ago. They could represent some of the earliest mammals, the long-lost relatives of humans, cats, and elephants alike, depending on how scientists evaluate some controversial 160-million-year-old Chinese fossils.

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In mammals teeth have reached their highest peak of evolution, mammalian teeth are both more In fact without teeth the fossil record would be much harder to understand. The longest tusk ever found belonged to the extinct Palaeoloxodom antiquus germanicus, the Straight-tusked Elephant.

The team found two teeth belonging to rat-like animals that date back 145 million years, meaning they're among the earliest This last group, also known as eutherians, are by far the most widespread mammals on Earth, encompassing everything from the tiniest shrew to the gigantic blue whale.

Because of the importance of teeth to an animal's life, the team can even make some educated guesses about how the critters lived. "The teeth are of a highly advanced type that can pierce, cut and crush food," Sweetman said in the statement, adding that one of the two species may have mostly snacked on insects.

  Tiny Fossil Teeth May Have Belonged to Earliest Mammals © Provided by IBT Media

"They are also very worn, which suggests the animals to which they belonged lived to a good age for their species," Sweetman added. "No mean feat when you're sharing your habitat with predatory dinosaurs!" The team also believes the critters were furry and nocturnal.

The tiny teeth have been sent to the Natural History Museum, where they can continue to be studied. Many of the most intriguing recent discoveries of early mammal fossils have been made in China, so extending the geographical range of specimens is particularly exciting.

Because the paper also serves as the formal identification of the two new species, the scientists also had the opportunity to name the long-dead critters. One they named Durlstodon ensomi and the other Durlstotherium newmani. Both names commemorate Durlston Bay, the region where the teeth were found—but they also acknowledge two locals, one a pub-owner and local amateur fossil collector, who helped the scientists during their visit.

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