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Re: Gliding mammal from the Mesozoic of China

Here's another article on Volaticotherium:


Guy Leahy

--- Tim Williams <twilliams_alpha@hotmail.com> wrote:

> These are exciting times for fossil mammals.  Not
> just the Miocene mammal 
> from New Zealand, but now a gliding mammal from the
> Mesozoic...
> Jin Meng, Yaoming Hu, Yuanqing Wang, Xiaolin Wang
> and Chuankui Li (2006)  A 
> Mesozoic gliding mammal from northeastern China. 
> Nature 444: 889-893.
> Abstract: "Gliding flight has independently evolved
> many times in 
> vertebrates.  Direct evidence of gliding is rare in
> fossil records and is 
> unknown in mammals from the Mesozoic era.  Here we
> report a new Mesozoic 
> mammal from Inner Mongolia, China, that represents a
> previously unknown 
> group characterized by a highly specialized
> insectivorous dentition and a 
> sizable patagium (flying membrane) for gliding
> flight.  The patagium is 
> covered with dense hair and supported by an
> elongated tail and limbs; the 
> latter also bear many features adapted for arboreal
> life.  This discovery 
> extends the earliest record of gliding flight for
> mammals to at least 70 
> million years earlier in geological history, and
> demonstrates that early 
> mammals were diverse in their locomotor strategies
> and lifestyles; they had 
> experimented with an aerial habit at about the same
> time as, if not earlier 
> than, when birds endeavoured to exploit the sky."
> The aerial beastie is _Volaticotherium antiquus_. 
> It was about the size of 
> a flying squirrel, and presumably very similar in
> habits.  The specimen even 
> preserves a patagium.  The authors place it in its
> own order 
> (Volaticotheria), which forms the sister taxon to
> clade containing 
> eutriconodontans, multituberculates and
> trechnotherians.  _Volaticotherium_ 
> comes from the Daohugou beds of Ningcheng County,
> Inner Mongolia, China, the 
> age of which is "controversial".
> Cheers
> Tim
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