A ‘crazy beast’ from the time of dinosaurs belongs to an obscure mammal group

Wednesday, April 29, 2020 - 10:06 in Paleontology & Archaeology

The ancient mammal Adalatherium hui is so weird that it eluded classification for over a decade. A roughly 70-million-year-old skeleton of the species, uncovered in Madagascar in 1999, was clearly a mammal. But it boasted several distinctly un-mammalian features, such as a large hole on top of its snout. Also, although the animal’s forelimbs were aligned with its spine, like a typical mammal, its back legs were splayed out to the sides like a reptile. “It is so strange, compared to any other mammal, living or extinct,” says paleontologist David Krause, of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, “it was just crazy.” Hence the name Adalatherium hui, from a Malagasy word meaning “crazy” and the Greek word for “beast.” Now, the crazy beast finally has been identified as a gondwanatherian — an obscure group of mammals that roamed the Southern Hemisphere during the age of dinosaurs, Krause and colleagues report online April 29 in Nature. The key to the animal’s identity was in comparing the skeleton...

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