A team of scientists discovered a “new and bizarre mammal” that lived 66 million years ago in Madagascar. The discovery, announced in a study published this Wednesday in the journal Nature, was only made possible by analyzing what is the most complete skeleton of a mesozoic mammal ever discovered in the southern hemisphere, referring to the supercontinent Gondwana.
The cat-sized mammal lived among the last dinosaurs, the BBC says. It is a discovery that challenges assumptions previously made in the theory of evolution – at this point in evolutionary history, mammals were generally very small, the size of mice.
The Adalatherium hui, as it was baptized, would weigh about 3 kilos and be 52 centimeters in height. The researchers believe that this animal was not yet an adult, which means that it would not have reached its maximum size. The animal had many nerves around its snout, something that is often seen in digging animals.
It should be noted that the term “Adalatherium” translated into Malagasy languages, which is spoken by practically the entire population of Madagascar, and Greek refers to “crazy animal”.
“Knowing what we know about the skeletal anatomy of all living and extinct mammals, it is difficult to imagine that a mammal like Adalatherium may have evolved.” His discovery calls into question many rules, admitted David Krause of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science in the United States, who led the investigation.
To Reuters, Simone Hoffmann, a paleontologist at the New York Institute of Technology and co-author of the study, also said that the team of researchers suspected that some of the animal’s “strangeness” was due to isolated evolution on an island. He also said that finding out how this animal moved and fed is one of the most fascinating parts of the project.
The skeleton was originally discovered in 1999. At the time, scientists did not know that they had found a mammal, since they thought they had only the fossil of an ancient reptile. The Washington Post explains that Adalatherium was preserved under this reptile. A closer look at the rock at New York University revealed the Adalatherium skeleton.