Wednesday, 13 June 2018

No, This Tiny Beast Is Not Half-Mammal, Half-Reptile (But It's Still Super Cool)

By Mindy Weisberger, Senior Writer | May 31, 2018 12:35pm ET

A small, furry animal with a blunt snout and beady eyes scuttled across what is now eastern Utah some 130 million years ago. And while the wee beast was surely unusual and fascinating, there's one thing it was definitely not: half-mammal and half-reptile.

Headlines about the recent find have described it as though it were some bizarre hybrid of reptile and mammal. But while it might be amusing to imagine a beast with the front end of a lizard and the rear end of a rat, it's not very scientific. [Real or Fake? 8 Bizarre Hybrid Animals]

The little animal, which would have stood just 3 inches (7.6 centimeters) tall and weighed about 2.5 pounds (1.1 kilograms), belonged to a group known as the haramiyidans, which emerged during the late Triassic period (251 million to 199 million years ago), and are known mostly from fossil teeth. Scientists have argued over whether haramiyidans were early mammals or a sister group — closely related to mammals, but lacking some features used by paleontologists to decide who's a mammal and who's not.

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