Saber-toothed Squirrel Like 'Scrat' An Ice Age

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A saber-toothed squirrel like mammals from the dinosaur era is revealing how diverse our ancestors may have been, the researchers said.

With its super long fangs, long snout and large eyes, the animal performs a mouse-sized curiously striking resemblance to the fictional saber-toothed squirrel represented in the computer-animated "Ice Age" movies, scientists said.

This creature is called Cronopio found dentiacutus - Cronopio after a strange, imaginary animals central to many stories of Argentine writer Julio Cortázar, and dentiacutus Latin, meaning "sharp teeth and sharp."

Teeth of the animal would have been about 0.2 inches (5 mm) long, length about one-fifth of the head.

"It looks a bit like Scrat, the saber-toothed squirrel from" Ice Age "," says researcher Guillermo Rougier, a vertebrate paleontologist and anatomist at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. "The comparison with Scrat is superficial, but it shows how various ancient mammal is that we can imagine a bizarre creature and later find something like that. "

It is not yet clear what Cronopio may have used the teeth of large mammals, but the long hours Canines is located mainly in the insect.

"From today use primarily insectivorous for long tusks, while grabbing and prey," said Rougier "But life is unparalleled with any dog ​​is as long as seen in Cronopio -. It is only beyond the scale we know. "

The researchers found the unknown than 100 million years of species in a very dry, remote part of southwestern Argentina, which has a lot of dinosaur skeletons and small vertebrates in the past.

"It looks like another planet," said Rougier site in Argentina. "The white bones are clearly visible against the red sandstone, we are here."

Instead, when he was alive Cronopio, "area of ​​the river was flooding a number of other animals, including dinosaurs large carnivores, large herbivores, terrestrial crocodiles, turtles, snakes and lizards sphenodontians," said Rougier. "I do not know much about plants, but there was at least some of the tall trees of conifers."

"There was flooding from time to time," he added. "This is probably the one that originally buried in animals."

Cronopio Rougier suggests a likely prey of crocodiles and carnivorous dinosaurs. In turn, you probably ate insects, larvae, other invertebrates and perhaps some small vertebrates.

"Skull Cronopio was not designed to support large forces, so that he could not use his saber-teeth to break the prey as lions can with their canines," Rougier observed.

Mammals living in South America, Age of Dinosaurs is still largely a mystery. Until now, scientists had only found a skull mammal in South America that was rooted in the Age of Dinosaurs, 130 million years, all being a little possum named Vincelestes neuquenianus. Cronopio is now the only mammal known at this time to help fill a void in the mysterious continent 60 million years, prehistoric mammals.

"The amount of information we have about the mammals that lived at that time in South America is extremely thin - new results are by far the best known examples of the time and place," said Rougier Live Science.

Cronopio belonged to a group of primitive, extinct animals known as dryolestoids formerly part of the lineage leading to marsupials and placental mammals with humans. Dryolestoid remains have been found before, especially in the northern continents - this new discovery, which is significantly different from previous findings indicate that the group of animals reached levels undreamed of black.

Scientists have found two partial skulls and jaws so far. The first specimen was discovered in 2002, was discovered by the engineer of the expedition. These fossils show for the first time scientists have been able to reconstruct the shape of a complete skull dryolestoid - have unique characteristics of primitive mammals that have paved the way for the evolution of marsupials and placentals, including the development of certain key networks of blood vessels.

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