Saturday, August 17, 2013

New Multituberculate fossil shows keys to their success

Reconstruction of Rugosodon eurasiaticus.
Multituberculates are a highly successful group of early mammals and they were surprisingly long lived having evolved in the Jurassic, survived the KT extinction event before disappearing during the Oligocene period. They are in fact the most long-lasting group of mammals, having survived at least 130 million years, more than any other group of mammals either alive or extinct. A new mostly complete fossil discovered in China, Rugosodon eurasiaticus, greatly help clarify the origin of the group. It shows that some of the key characteristics of the multituberculates, such as highly flexible spine and mobile ankle joints, evolved very early, and were probable the reasons of their success.


Ref: Yuan C.-X., Ji Q., Meng Q.-J., Tabrum A. R., Luo Z.-X. 2013. Earliest evolution of multituberculate mammals revealed by a new Jurassic fossil. Science 341 (6147): 779–783

Abstract: Multituberculates were successful herbivorous mammals and were more diverse and numerically abundant than any other mammal groups in Mesozoic ecosystems. The clade also developed diverse locomotor adaptations in the Cretaceous and Paleogene. We report a new fossil skeleton from the Late Jurassic of China that belongs to the basalmost multituberculate family. Dental features of this new Jurassic multituberculate show omnivorous adaptation, and its well-preserved skeleton sheds light on ancestral skeletal features of all multituberculates, especially the highly mobile joints of the ankle, crucial for later evolutionary success of multituberculates in the Cretaceous and Paleogene. 

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