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Furry multituberculates



> *** Earliest furry creatures found in ancient dung
> 
> The discovery of furry remains in ancient deposits of animal dung
> indicate that mammals started growing hair millions of years earlier
> than scientists thought, researchers reported Wednesday. Scientists
> said they found the evidence in 60-million-year-old fossilized
> excrement in China's Inner Mongolia region. The deposit contained
> hundreds of bits of animal dung and also regurgitated pellets
> resembling those coughed up by modern birds of prey. The impressions
> of hair were preserved in red clay. For the full text story, see
> http://www.merc.com/stories/cgi/story.cgi?id=1608352-185

I have not yet  seen the original article (and I am looking forward
to seeing it), but I suppose that the fossils were found in Tertiary 
(Paleocene or possibly Eocene) sediments. The presence of hair in
multituberculates of this age means that hair must have been present
in the common ancestor of multituberculates and other mammals,
if I understand the summary correctly.

Although I agree that this is an important piece of evidence, I 
cannot quite understand the surprise expressed in the text
("...that mammals started growing hair millions of years earlier
than scientists though..."). There has been a lot of evidence that 
multituberculates are related to modern mammals. In a recent article 
in Nature, Serena and McKenna even concluded that multituberculates
are closer related to marsupials and placentals than monotremes because of 
similarities in the shoulder girdle. So why shouldn't they be furry ?
By the way, I have never seen a reconstruction of a multituberculate 
without hair, although this does not mean much.

Martin Jehle