Taxonomy term


Bat signals

Bats, the only true-flight mammals, first appeared during the Early Eocene after a period of acute global warming known as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. Despite decades of study, however, much remains unknown about bats. Recent discoveries are shedding new light on the natural history of these creatures, which today comprise one of the most diverse mammalian groups.

07 Apr 2016

Fossilized melanin reveals bats' true colors

Studies of pigments preserved in fossil feathers have changed our perception of how colorful dinosaurs were. Now, researchers have revealed the true colors of some of the first flying mammals as well. Two species of bats that lived during the Eocene about 50 million years ago were likely reddish-brown in color, according to a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
02 Feb 2016

Three new species of extinct baleen whales found

The evolution of baleen whales from toothed whales was gradual, with intermediate fossil species found that possess both teeth and baleen. Now, the discovery of three new whale species on New Zealand’s South Island is filling in the evolutionary story of baleen whales.
21 Jan 2016

The Snowmastodon Project: Mammoths and mastodons lived the high life in Colorado

In fall 2011, a bulldozer driver in Snowmass, Colo., unearthed an unprecedented trove of Pleistocene-aged fossils. Over the next few months, “Snowmastodon” became one of the largest fossil excavations ever. Scientists have already learned a lot from the bones.

13 Dec 2015

Potentially venomous extinct mammals discovered in Zambia

Venomousness is rare among both living mammals and their extinct relatives, with only a handful of modern mammals, like the platypus and some species of shrews, known to produce venom. But the discovery of a mammal that lived about 255 million years ago in what is now Zambia may be one of the earliest venomous mammals. 
12 Dec 2015

Owl pellets bridge ancient and modern ecosystems

In Homestead Cave near Utah’s Great Salt Lake, owls have been regurgitating pellets containing the undigested bones and hair of prey — typically small mammals like rodents — at a relatively constant rate since the end of the Pleistocene glaciations about 13,000 years ago. Those pellets have stacked up and fossilized in the cave to present a near-continuous glimpse into how mammal communities in this part of the Great Basin region have changed over time. Now, paleontologists examining bones in the pellets have found that, although small mammals in the region have generally been able to adapt to shifting ecosystems in the past, today, in the face of landscape-altering human activity, the mammal population is changing in unprecedented ways.
25 Oct 2015

A Cambrian-like explosion of mammals in the Mid-Jurassic

Dinosaurs dominated the continents during the Mesozoic, and for a long time, paleontologists assumed our mammalian ancestors kept a low-profile in that era, existing only as small, ground-dwelling, nocturnal insect-eaters. But in the last decade, discoveries of an ever-increasing diversity of mammal fossils have forced a rethink: Mesozoic mammals were also gliders, climbers, diggers and swimmers. Now, scientists looking at mammalian rates of evolution during the time of the dinosaurs have found that this diversity peaked in the Mid-Jurassic, leading to new physical characteristics that would remain for millions of years.
20 Oct 2015

Early horse history written in Indian coal mine

Modern horses, rhinos and tapirs — all ungulates with an odd number of toes — belong to a group of animals called Perissodactyla. The oldest Perissodactyla fossils date from the Early Eocene Epoch about 56 million years ago, but the animals’ earlier evolution remains a mystery. Now, a discovery in India suggests that the group likely originated on the Indian subcontinent when it was still an island on a collision course with Asia.

10 Mar 2015

Marine mammals blamed for first New World tuberculosis

When Europeans arrived in the Americas they introduced an array of new infectious diseases that decimated the native populations. Now, a new genetics-based study published in Nature shows that the emergence of tuberculosis in Peru seems to have predated the arrival of the Spanish — and that seals and sea lions may be to blame instead for the ancient infections.

13 Jan 2015

The subcontinent's sturdy mammals

India is home to some hardy mammals, according to a new study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Researchers reported that 20 of 21 mammalian taxa identified from fossils found in southern India have survived on the subcontinent over at least the last 100,000 years, with some lineages stretching back twice that long.

27 Aug 2014