Half mammal, half reptile discovered in Utah

It may have weighed only 2 1/2 pounds and stood about 6 inches tall, but the discovery of a half mammal, half reptile...

Posted: May 29, 2018 3:37 PM
Updated: May 29, 2018 3:37 PM

It may have weighed only 2 1/2 pounds and stood about 6 inches tall, but the discovery of a half mammal, half reptile's skull in eastern Utah has huge implications for geologic timelines.

The skull of the new species, Cifelliodon wahkarmoosuch, came from a snout-bearing, catlike animal with buck teeth and molars for crushing plants.

Its discovery is evidence that the super-continental split of Pangea likely occurred more recently than scientists previously thought - 15 million years later - and that a group of reptile-like mammals experienced an unsuspected burst of evolution across several continents.

"Based on the unlikely discovery of this near-complete fossil cranium, we now recognize a new, cosmopolitan group of early mammal relatives," said Adam Huttenlocker, lead author of the study and assistant professor of clinical integrative anatomical sciences at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California.

The study was published in the journal Nature on May 16 and updates the understanding of how mammals evolved and dispersed across major continents during the age of dinosaurs.

This creature, although it was covered in hair and suckled its young, laid eggs like the modern-day platypus.

"For a long time, we thought early mammals from the Cretaceous (145 million to 66 million years ago) were anatomically similar and not ecologically diverse," Huttenlocker said. "This finding by our team and others reinforce that, even before the rise of modern mammals, ancient relatives of mammals were exploring specialty niches: insectivores, herbivores, carnivores, swimmers, gliders. Basically, they were occupying a variety of niches that we see them occupy today."

Andrew R.C. Milner, a paleontologist at the St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm, discovered the skull site on Bureau of Land Management Lands northeast of Arches National Park. Later paleontologists unexpectedly found the skull in the lab under the foot of a new iguanodont dinosaur called Hippodraco.

The fossil discovery emphasizes that these type of animals and some other vertebrate groups existed globally during the Jurassic-Cretaceous transition, meaning the corridors for migration via Pangean landmasses remained intact into the Early Cretaceous.

Most of the Jurassic and Cretaceous fossils of these type of animals are from the Triassic and Jurassic of Europe, Greenland and Asia.

David Grossnickle and Julia Schultz, from the University of Chicago, contributed to the study, as well Jim Kirkland, state paleontologist with the Utah Geological Survey.

The specimen was found on Bureau of Land Management lands and is held in public trust at the Natural History Museum of Utah, where it is on display in the museum's Past Worlds Gallery.

The federal government provided $300 for the research. The remainder was supported by the state of Utah.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 666516

Reported Deaths: 12726
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion912711659
Lake48687890
Allen36102644
Hamilton32445398
St. Joseph30306514
Elkhart25510420
Vanderburgh21326382
Tippecanoe20220205
Johnson16466363
Porter16068281
Hendricks15944302
Clark12060182
Madison11799323
Vigo11685234
Monroe10419164
Delaware9891179
LaPorte9831199
Howard9112201
Kosciusko8597111
Bartholomew7522147
Hancock7462134
Warrick7451153
Floyd7263173
Wayne6661192
Grant6462158
Boone616691
Morgan6129128
Dubois5936112
Dearborn551270
Cass5485100
Marshall5451105
Henry542995
Noble513178
Jackson465567
Shelby463391
Lawrence4195113
Gibson405185
Harrison403265
Clinton397553
Montgomery391684
DeKalb387478
Miami358263
Knox357885
Whitley351238
Huntington349477
Steuben340055
Putnam333960
Wabash333176
Ripley327962
Adams325449
Jasper319143
White298152
Jefferson296274
Daviess285996
Fayette272756
Decatur271688
Greene262680
Posey261432
Wells259075
Scott251850
LaGrange242470
Clay241644
Randolph226077
Spencer219430
Jennings216744
Washington213027
Sullivan203739
Fountain202842
Starke189951
Owen183654
Fulton179737
Jay178728
Carroll176919
Perry174036
Orange171451
Rush165622
Vermillion161543
Franklin159935
Tipton149541
Parke140216
Pike128533
Blackford120627
Pulaski107644
Newton96832
Brown95340
Benton92413
Crawford92213
Martin80314
Warren75914
Switzerland7558
Union67510
Ohio54211
Unassigned0427

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 977736

Reported Deaths: 17501
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1129551251
Cuyahoga968561881
Hamilton738821067
Montgomery47506923
Summit40668831
Butler35827531
Lucas35779720
Stark29581826
Warren22574275
Lorain22190424
Mahoning19578551
Lake18545332
Clermont18519205
Delaware16597121
Licking15089194
Fairfield14644188
Trumbull14423424
Greene13659221
Medina13517237
Clark12376256
Wood11656170
Portage11127172
Allen10820216
Richland10372188
Miami10059194
Muskingum8238117
Columbiana8168210
Pickaway8094111
Tuscarawas8075232
Marion8020127
Wayne7933199
Erie6961146
Ross6173132
Geauga6114142
Hancock6030121
Scioto600488
Ashtabula5998154
Lawrence527586
Union516341
Darke5052116
Belmont4999137
Huron4859108
Jefferson4836137
Sandusky4798112
Washington474396
Seneca4734111
Athens466149
Mercer459781
Auglaize456582
Shelby442679
Knox4054105
Putnam400593
Madison395455
Fulton383161
Ashland382683
Brown374852
Defiance373788
Crawford360098
Logan357373
Preble353987
Clinton342455
Highland328451
Ottawa325371
Williams303568
Jackson291846
Champaign290949
Guernsey288845
Perry271148
Fayette269943
Morrow261437
Henry247861
Hardin247359
Holmes244497
Coshocton240756
Van Wert230157
Gallia223938
Adams218239
Pike217228
Wyandot212450
Hocking195054
Carroll182143
Paulding161034
Meigs136031
Noble129233
Monroe117237
Morgan102120
Harrison100731
Vinton76613
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Partly Cloudy
32° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 18°
Feels Like: 25°
Angola
Mostly Cloudy
32° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 19°
Feels Like: 26°
Huntington
Partly Cloudy
34° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 20°
Feels Like: 34°
Fort Wayne
Partly Cloudy
32° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 21°
Feels Like: 25°
Lima
Partly Cloudy
32° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 20°
Feels Like: 23°
Warmer, breezy on Monday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events