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mice in the …

30 October 2015

The Times (of London), last week, had a post by Oliver Moody on a mammal that lived contemporary with the dinosaurs, a mouse like creature (or perhaps a giant shrew). Its remains were found in a limestone quarry in Spain and it went from there to the University of Chicago where the research was done. Like mice it had a long tail, and long nose, and was covered in hair (fur). In fact it's discovery has put back the evolution of fur by 60 million years as it is dated to around 125 million years ago – long before the demise of the dinosaurs and the beginning of the era of mammals. Moody, the science corespondent of the newspaper, gleaned the story from the journal Nature (October 2015) and its remains, including the fur, were preserved by the presence of phosphates. Its liver and lungs, ear lobes, and fur could all be examined closely under a microscope and had perfectly preserved skin and hair structure that was fossilised in minute detail. However, the animal differed from mice, in spite of the visual resemblance, as it had dermal scutes, armour plating made out of keratin (as in modern armadillos). The first mammals are known from the beginning of the Jurassic – deep within the dinosaur era.

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