The discovery of a half-mammal, half-reptile fossil in Utah could alter the way scientists have been looking at the evolutionary development of mammals and the geological timelines surrounding it.
According to CBS, a skull of the reptilian-mammal fossil, Cifelliodon wahkarmoosuch, weighs about two and a half pounds and is about six inches in length. Discovered at the Bureau of Land Management Lands northeast of Arches National Park in Utah by Andrew R.C. Milner, a paleontologist at the St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm, the skull could mark a huge shift to the geological timeline that scientists have attributed to the super-continental split of Pangaea.
Pangaea was a super-continent in the southern hemisphere — much of what is today the entire landmass of the earth — that has so far been believed to have split about 175 million years ago. One way evolutionists have been able to determine the date of the split is through the observation of fossils of several mutational species. The discovery of the skull, which belongs to a half-reptile, half-mammal snout-bearing, catlike creature with buck teeth and molars for crushing plants, now points towards the Pangaea split happening at least 15 million years later than what is believed to be true right now.
As noted in the report, the discovery points towards an “unsuspected burst of evolution” of these animals around the time.
The study was published earlier this month in the journal Nature and sheds an important new light on the question of how mammals evolved and dispersed across major continents during the Mezozoic era — commonly also called the age of dinosaurs.
Adam Huttenlocker, lead author of the study and assistant professor of clinical integrative anatomical sciences at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, said the creature, although covered in hair, laid eggs like the modern-day platypus, a semiaquatic egg-laying mammal found largely in eastern Australia.
“Based on the unlikely discovery of this near-complete fossil cranium, we now recognize a new, cosmopolitan group of early mammal relatives.
For a long time, we thought early mammals from the Cretaceous (145 million to 66 million years ago) were anatomically similar and not ecologically diverse.
This finding by our team and others reinforce that, even before the rise of modern mammals, ancient relatives of mammals were exploring specialty niches: insectivores, herbivores, carnivores, swimmers, gliders. Basically, they were occupying a variety of niches that we see them occupy today.”
The most distinguishing part of the discovery is the fact that the fossil has been found in Utah, which is a far cry from the usual sites of such discoveries, with most fossils of these type of animals found in the Triassic and Jurassic of Europe, Greenland and Asia.
[The featured image of this report is for representational purposes only.]