The way we used to be told:
Although major finds are emerging all over the world, the largest number are coming out of China; together, they have overturned the now dated belief that dinosaur-era mammals were small, unremarkable insectivores, eking out a life in the shadows of the giant reptiles.
The fossils have revealed that early mammals were ecologically diverse and experimenting in gliding, swimming, burrowing and climbing. The discoveries are also starting to reveal the evolutionary origins of many of the key traits of mammals — such as lactation, large brains and superbly keen senses.
“The explosion of early-mammal discoveries, particularly from China, over the last two decades has been eye-opening, mind-numbing and absolutely dazzling,” says David Krause, a vertebrate palaeontologist at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science in Colorado.
This avalanche of discovery is also stirring up debate: some researchers disagree over which fossil groups are true mammals and the shape of the mammal family tree.John Pickrell, “How the earliest mammals thrived alongside dinosaurs” at Nature
We wish them many, many more fossils to fight over. And if so, expect many more surprises.
\See also: Plants Use Glutamate, Like Mammals, To Speed Nervous System Transmission
Researchers: Mammals’ “Arms” Backdated 100 Million Years; Predate Dinosaurs
Move Over, Mammals. Spiders Provide Milk For Their Young Too
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