The oldest complete mammal fossil from the Southern Hemisphere is puzzling scientists with its mismatched body, strange skull holes and teeth that look like they’re “from outer space.”
The new fossil, reported today (April 29) in the journal Nature, is the oldest (and only) nearly complete skeleton from an extinct group of mammals known as Gondwanatherians. This mysterious bunch lived alongside the dinosaurs on the southern supercontinent of Gondwana. They’re known from a smattering of teeth and bone fragments, a single skull and the new, remarkable skeleton of an animal whose discoverers have dubbed the “crazy beast.”
The fossil is from northwestern Madagascar and dates back 66 million years, to the end of the Cretaceous period. Madagascar was already an island at the time, having drifted away from Africa by 88 million years ago, and the animals that lived there were completely bizarre, said David Krause, the senior curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, who led the new research.