Saturday, August 12, 2017

Gliding Mammals of the Dinosaur Age

Among the many spectacular mammal fossils that have emerged from Jurassic quarries in northeastern China are some that resemble modern flying squirrels. These include Maiopatagium, above;

and Vilevoledon. Both about 170 million years old. These are not placental mammals, so they are not related to flying squirrels; just another case of convergent evolution.

There were no flowering plants yet, so no fruit; perhaps they fed on conifer seeds.

These gliding animals are a good example of the great diversity of mammals that lived in Jurassic times, something we knew nothing about until the 1990s. Besides gliders, Chinese paleontologists have also found mammals that swam like otters and mammals with claws like those anteaters use to pull open insect mounds.

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