New Zealand Fossil Mammal
From New Scientist:
"Fossil bones of a mouse-sized creature that died between 16 million and 19 million years ago have been discovered on the South Island of New Zealand. It is the first hard evidence that the islands once had their own indigenous land mammals.
"Today the only land mammals that live in New Zealand are animals like Australian possums – which have arrived since human settlement – although the country does have its own species of bats, seals and sea lions.
"The find, by Trevor Worthy of Adelaide University, Australia, and colleagues, includes two jawbones, and one thigh bone, from at least two of the creatures, says team member Suzanne Hand. 'The amazing thing is, it is unlike any other fossil mammal found anywhere else,' she says.
"The shape of the fossil bones suggest a very primitive mammal that would have evolved before the mammal-line split into placental mammals and marsupials, 125 million years ago, says Hand of the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. As the fossil bones are only around 16 million to 19 million years old, it appears the mammal managed to survive for at least 100 million years before going extinct."
"The lack of fossils of New Zealand land mammals had long been considered a major mystery. There are plenty of fossils of land mammals in Australia that date from 125 million to 100 million years ago. During that time New Zealand and Australia were both part of the same landmass, which suggests that land mammals also lived in New Zealand, and were perhaps driven to extinction at a later date.
"The new discovery suggests that land mammals did indeed roam New Zealand, but have simply proved difficult to find."
The research will be published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (vol 103, p 19419).
[Full news posted to StrangeArk archive.]