Scientists have discovered a new species that should stir feelings of nostalgia in those who grew up watching Ice Age franchise. In the films, one of the constant sources of comic relief came from the squirrel-like character Scrat. Now, it looks like Scrat may have truly existed 231 million years ago.
Scientists have named the newly discovered species Pseudotherium argentinus, which is translated to mean false Theria from Argentina. Similar to the Scrat of Ice Age fame, this species possesses an appearance similar to a squirrel as well as saber teeth in a skull that is just under six centimeters in length. As it's scientific name references, the Pseudotherium argentinus was discovered in Argentina's Ischigualasto Provincial Park. Ischigualasto is also the location where two of the oldest dinosaurs ever discovered have been found.
In a comment on the findings to Agencia CTyS-UNLaM, Dr. Ricardo Martínez elaborated on this latest discovery's similarity to the character from Ice Age.
"The new species has a very long, flat, and shallow snout, and its very long fangs located almost at the tip of the snout, so the resemblance [to Scrat] is tremendous."Martinez was a part of a team of three tasked with studying the skull of this ancient relative of mammals along with Rachel Wallace and Timothy Rowe of the Jackson School of Geosciences, University of Texas at Austin, and almost immediately considered giving it a name in reference to Scrat. One difference between Scrat and his 230-million-year-old doppelganger is that the Pseudotherium argentinus did not fall victim to ice, but instead was trapped in the iconic multicolored rocks of Ischigualasto, a location in the San Juan province of northwestern Argentina that is known across the world for its dinosaur fossils. The site is commonly known as "Moon Valley." This animal, which existed during the Triassic period, was found close to the remains of a Panphagia protos, one of the oldest sauropodomorphs to have ever been discovered. Also not far was the femur of the only lagerpetid dinosaur that had been discovered in the area. All three were discovered by Martinez in 2006. Those discoveries sparked more than a decade of studies, which led to today's reveal.
Environment-wise, the Pseudotherium argentinus lived in a much warmer climate even by today's standards, during a time where instead of flowering plants, only ferns and conifers existed. Martinez said that the species measured about 25 centimeters long and unlike Scrat, fed on insects or smaller animals instead of acorns.