An ancient mammal the size of a badger may have used its bone-crushing canines and powerful bite to take down little dinosaurs, researchers have found. In fact, the little guy could chomp down with more force, pound for pound, than any other mammal on record.
The creature (Didelphodon vorax), an early marsupial relative, lived during the last few million years of the Mesozoic, or dinosaur age, in what is now present-day Montana and North Dakota, the researchers said.
The new findings upend an old theory suggesting that marsupials originated in South America. Rather, an analysis of D. vorax's anatomical features suggest that marsupials originated in North America a good 10 million to 20 million years earlier than scientists thought. Later, these early marsupials would have dispersed and diversified in South America, the researchers said. [Early Marsupial Relative's Powerful Bite Could Kill Little Dinosaurs | Video]
"What I love about Didelphodon vorax is that it crushes the classic mold of Mesozoic mammals," the study's lead researcher Gregory Wilson, an adjunct curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Burke Museum in Seattle, and an associate professor of biology at the University of Washington, said in a statement. "Instead of a shrew-like mammal meekly scurrying into the shadows of dinosaurs, this badger-sized mammal would've been a fearsome predator on the Late Cretaceous landscape — even for some dinosaurs."