Saturday, January 15, 2005

Mammals Eat Dinosaurs

Fossil hunters in China have discovered two skeletons from a kind of animal never seen before: a dog sized mammal that lived about 135 million years ago. The discovery overturns the conventional wisdom that the earliest mammals were all rodent-sized and meek. This animal apparently munched on dinosaurs. Nestled inside one of the skeletons -- where its stomach once was -- scientists found a tiny set of bones, the remains of a small dinosaur about five inches long from tip to tail. Scientists say the find will trigger some rethinking about the relationship between mammals and dinosaurs, and how they influenced each other. The fossils, called Repenomamus, were found in China's Liaoning Province, a region that's produced numerous unique fossils in recent years.
Repenomamus giganticus, had a stout build and squat posture like that of modern-day badgers. Within the well-preserved rib cage of the new specimen, the researchers found a compact wad of broken bones and teeth. Some of those remains, including a skull, spinal column, and limb bones, still had some joints intact, suggesting that the bones derive from prey that had been dismembered and swallowed in chunks.