Small furry animal lived with dinosaurs

January 12, 2006

The fossil of a small, furry insect-eating animal that walked like a platypus has been found in China.

Researchers say the find provides important new clues to the evolution of early mammals, National Geographic News reported.

The well-preserved fossil, found in the province of Liaoning in northeast China, is a previously unknown species of insect-eating mammal that lived alongside dinosaurs some 125 million years ago, National Geographic said.

In a report published in the journal Nature, paleontologists Gang Li and Zhe-Xi Luo said the animal reveals some unexpectedly primitive features, and that it strengthens Asia's claim as the site where the main mammal groups originated.

The animal, named Akidolestes, had jaws, teeth, and forelimbs that identify it as a close relative of modern placental and marsupial mammals. But the researchers said it has a highly unusual back-half to its skeleton similar to that of primitive, egg-laying mammals known as monotremes.

National Geographic said the only living descendants of monotremes are the duck-billed platypus of Australia and two species of spiny anteaters.

Copyright 2006 by United Press International

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