The oldest known mammal is a shrew-like species that lived 225 million years ago. The world’s oldest mammal has been identified.
In a discovery described by academics as “extremely significant,” the world’s oldest mammal has been uncovered using fossil tooth records. It predates the previously verified earliest mammal by around 20 million years. In a recent discovery that scientists have hailed as “extremely significant,” the world’s oldest mammal has been identified using fossil tooth records. This animal predates the previously known oldest mammal by around 20 million years.
A team of Brazilian and British scientists discovered the remains of Brasilodon quadrangularis. This small, shrew-like animal lived 225 million years ago and provided information on the origin of modern mammals. It was around 20 centimeters (8 inches) long.
Researchers from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul in Porto Alegre, King’s College London, and the Natural History Museum in London produced the discovery. Complex tissue fossils, including those of bones and teeth, provided scientists with hints about the past. No fossils have yet been discovered, including milk-producing animal glands.
Since isolated teeth from the Morganucodon indicate that it existed around 205 million years ago, it was once thought to be the earliest mammal. The Morganucodon had a small, gerbil-like body and a shrew- or civet-like, long face.
According to the study’s dental records, Brasilodon quadrangularis lived 225 million years ago, or 25 million years after the Permian-Triassic mass extinction event, the third and most significant mass extinction event, during which more than 90% of marine species vanished, and 70% of land creatures perished.
According to Martha Richter, a senior author of the article and a scientific associate at the museum, the Brasilodon quadrangularis was previously thought to be an “advanced reptile.” Still, an examination of its teeth “definitively” proves it was a mammal.
“If you think about reptiles, they have many, many different replacement teeth throughout their lives, but we mammals only have two. First are the milk teeth and then the second dentition, replacing the original set. This is what defines mammals,” Richter said.
Basildon is the oldest extinct vertebrate with two successive sets of teeth — baby teeth and one permanent set — also known as a diphyodonty, the news release said. The first set starts developing during the embryonic stage and the second set develops after birth.
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Richter and her colleagues examined three lower jaws of the species, which lived in the region covered today by the southernmost section of Brazil. Under the microscope, they discovered “the type of replacement teeth that are only present in mammals,” she said.
Richter added: “This was a very, very small mammal that was probably a burrowing animal living in the shadows of the oldest dinosaurs that we know from that period.”
In the news release, Richter said the findings contributed “to our understanding of the ecological landscape of this period and the evolution of modern mammals.”
Moya Meredith Smith, contributing author and professor of endoskeletal evolutionary biology at King’s College London, said in the release: “Our paper raises the level of debate about what defines a mammal and shows that it was a much earlier time of origin in the fossil record than previously known.”
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