New Species Of Jurassic ‘Squirrels’ Push Origin Of Mammals Back By 40 Million Years

September 10, 2014 9:02 PM

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New Species Of Jurassic ‘Squirrels’ Push Origin Of Mammals Back By 40 Million Years

Scientists have identified three new species of prehistoric squirrel-like mammals known as haramiyids that lived in China during the Jurassic period. The extinct species, which were about the size of mice but had long tails and feet suited for tree dwelling, are some of the oldest mammals ever found, and their discovery pushes the timeline of mammalian evolution back by about 40 million years, according to a study published online Tuesday in the journal Nature.

Scientists have long suggested that mammals originated in the Middle Jurassic period between 174 million and 164 million years ago. The haramiyid fossils discovered in China are around 160 million years old, which means mammals would have had to originate much earlier – around 200 million to 220 mil...

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