Taxonomy term

mammal

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

La Brea climate adaptation as different as cats and dogs

The La Brea tar pits are famous for being a predator trap. For every herbivore, a dozen or more carnivores are pulled from the prolific Pleistocene fossil site in downtown Los Angeles. Two new studies focusing on the two most common species found at the tar pits — dire wolves and saber-toothed cats — are characterizing how the tar pits’ two top predators coped with the warming climate toward the end of the last ice age, and the results are surprisingly dissimilar: While the wolves got smaller, the cats got bigger.

12 Aug 2014

Blogging on EARTH: Ancient whale with a big bite named for Moby Dick author

In a Peruvian desert, scientists discovered the fossils of an extinct whale with a big bite. The whale's teeth and jaws were so powerful that it feasted on other whales.

30 Jun 2010

Deciphering mass extinctions

What the planet’s past mass extinctions tell us about the future of life on Earth

The crash-landing of a 10-kilometer-wide asteroid 65 million years ago made for a very bad day for dinosaurs — or one very lucky day for mammals.

02 Sep 2009

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