The fauna and flora of Madagascar are interesting not only today but it was quite remarkable even in the pasts. This is proven by the findings of a 66 million-year-old large mammal.
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Whenever you think of the late Cretaceous era you usually imagine mammals just as a small side note compared to the literally large footprint dinosaurs left. But this view has been disrupted for quite some time now by different discoveries. The newest describes a creature that sort of resembles a badger.
The discovery was scored by a team led by David Kraus from the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.
The Crazy Beast From Madagascar
The surprisingly well-preserved fossil of the creature that was named adalatherium hui was found in Madagascar. The island broke off from mainland Africa over 88 million years ago and that gave a chance to some incredible species of animals to arise.
The description of the new mammal Adelaterium which translates to “crazy beast” in Malagasy and Greek is based on a discovery of almost a complete skeleton that was incredibly well preserved. The skeleton is actually the most complete skeleton coming from the Cretaceous period.
The prehistorical dinosaur-era mammal is about the size of a cat and should have weighted roughly 3 kilograms. The thing the scientists were surprised the most is its amazing anatomy that has no analogs in current animals.
This “crazy beast” most likely lived sometime around 72 – 66 million years ago and was a herbivore. The age of the fossil is based on the fact that is was found inside of rocks dated to this period.
With its long body and a short and thick tail, it mostly resembles a current badger. It hid from reptile predators in holes in the ground allowing it to reach this large size (for a mammal). Based on what we know it is roughly a hundred times larger than the vast majority of mammal of that period.
The unique and honestly quite bizarre properties just defy any kind of explanation when comparing them to other mammals.
While the front feet of the “crazy beast” are directly under its body just like they are with the majority of current mammal its hind legs were more on the sides of its body just like they are in reptiles. Thus, its spine moved from side to side when it moved.
And under the surface, we would find many other strange things. For example, in the area of its snout, it has a septomaxilla which we thought has disappeared from mammals hundreds of millions of years before Adalatheriuma.
Its skull included an untold number of holes (formina) that allowed blood vessels and nerves to lead to its snout giving it an incredible sense of smell. And on top of the snout, it had a single large hole which we haven't seen in any living or dead mammal.
In comparison with other mammals from its time, it had more spinal vertebrae and thus a longer body. Its front teeth were similar to those of current rodents but their construction is different. But overall, the body build of the animal has no analog in current fauna.
Adalatherium is part of an extinct group of mammals called Gondwanatheria because we only ever found their fossils on the no longer existing continent on Gondwana. Before the discovery of Adalatheira, we only knew about their existence based on isolated teeth and jawbone fragments except for a skull that was also discovered by Kraus on Madagascar back in 2014.
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