Saturday, February 25, 2006

New "mammal" takes the stage

Jurassic beaver swims into view
Large early mammal was first to get furry.

"As a Jurassic predator, it was hardly in the big league. But compared with the shrew-like stature of the earliest mammals, it was a fearsome giant.Meet the Jurassic 'beaver' from China. Living 164 million years ago, it's the oldest known furry member of the mammal family, and the first known to master swimming.

The specimen, described in Science this week, was found by palaeontologists trawling the collections of the Jinzhou Museum of Palaeontology in China. Zhexi-Luo, of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and his team christened the creature Castorocauda lutrasimilis, meaning beaver-tailed and otter-like.

Like today's river otter, C. lutrasimilis probably lived in a burrow and hunted fish. And, a bit like a modern beaver, it sported a broad, flat, scaly tail."

Click here for the complete article by NATURE

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