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Scientists Exhume Ancient Cat-sized Mammal Named After The Hobbit's 'Beorn'

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Last Updated: August 20, 2021, 11:57 IST

One of the mammals is the size of a cat and is named Beornus Honeyi. (Representational photo. Credits: AP)

One of the mammals is the size of a cat and is named Beornus Honeyi. (Representational photo. Credits: AP)

The mammals are believed to have roamed all around the continent of North America post the extinction of the dinosaurs about 66 million years ago.

Paleontology experts from the University of Colorado managed to exhume parts of teeth and lower jawbones of three mammals dating back to almost 66 million years ago. All three specimens were unique in their structure. The excavation was carried out in the Great Divide Basin in Wyoming, USA.

The mammals are believed to have roamed all around the continent of North America post the extinction of the dinosaurs about 66 million years ago. They are the primitive ancestors of the present days’ hooved mammals like cows, horses, and goats.

One of the mammals is the size of a cat and is named Beornus Honeyi, after Beorn, the fictional character from the movie Hobbit, due to the puffy cheek teeth the mammal honed. The other two, Miniconus Jeanninae and Conacodon Hettingeri, differ a tad bit in size. The mammals are believed to have emerged in the Palaeocene epoch, with their size ranging from a ring-tailed feline to a modern house cat.

“After the extinction of dinosaurs, the environment became habitable for a variety of mammals who could evolve and diversify in body sizes. These mammals clearly took advantage of the situation. As a result, a range of new species evolved in a comparatively shorter period of time,” Madelaine Atteberry, the lead author of the research paper, told the Daily Mail.

She further states, “Earlier studies suggested that for the initial hundred thousand years after the extinction, the species diversity was low. However, the newly discovered mammals hint towards the opposite direction.”

The three distinct fossils discovered are a small chunk of the entire exhumation drive. The researchers at the site unearthed a total of 420 mammalian fossils. The Paleocene era follows the mass extinction of the dinosaurs due to a city-sized asteroid. The collision is believed to have wiped 75 percent of all animal and plant species.

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first published:August 20, 2021, 11:57 IST
last updated:August 20, 2021, 11:57 IST