Who were the apes ancestors?

Ancestor of humans and other mammals was small furry insect eater

Scientists reconstruct the animal that gave rise to every placental mammal following the extinction of the dinosaurs

An artist’s impression of the hypothetical common ancestor of all placental mammals. Photograph: Carl Buell/Science

An identikit picture of a small furry ancestor of humans and most other mammals has been pieced together by scientists.

The shrew-like creature weighed less than half a pound, had a long tail and ate insects. It evolved some 200,000 years after a massive asteroid impact led to the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

From this small beginning sprang every “placental” mammal – which give birth to mature live young – including dogs, cats, rodents, whales and humans.

Placental mammals are the largest branch of the mammalian family tree, with more than 5,100 living species. Non-placental mammals comprise kangaroos and other marsupials, and egg-laying monotremes such as the duck-billed platypus.

Experts recorded 4,500 physical traits for 86 mammalian species, including 40 that are now extinct. The features, which include the presence or absence of wings, teeth, and bone types, produced a data set 10 times larger than any used before to study mammalian ancestry.

Combined with molecular information from DNA samples, it allowed the scientists to pinpoint the likely start of the story of placental mammals.

Read more

Read more

Advertisements