Newly Discovered Fossils Reveal Man’s Earliest Ancestors

Researchers Discover Man's Earliest Ancestors

This is a reconstruction of the small, rat-like creatures that lived 145 million years ago in the shadow of the dinosaurs. Credit: Dr Mark Witton, palaeo-artist, University of Portsmouth

Researchers at the University of Portsmouth have discovered fossils of the oldest mammals related to mankind on the Jurassic Coast of Dorset.

The two teeth are from small, rat-like creatures that lived 145 million years ago in the shadow of the dinosaurs. They are the earliest undisputed fossils of mammals belonging to the line that led to human beings.

They are also the ancestors to most mammals alive today, including creatures as diverse as the Blue Whale and the Pigmy Shrew. The findings are published today in the Journal, Acta Palaeontologica Polonica, in a paper by Dr Steve Sweetman, Research Fellow at the University of Portsmouth, and co-authors from the same university. Dr Sweetman, whose primary research interest concerns all the small vertebrates that lived with the dinosaurs, identified the teeth but it was University of Portsmouth undergraduate student, Grant Smith who made the discovery.

Dr Sweetman said: “Grant was sifting through small samples of earliest Cretaceous rocks collected on the coast of Dorset as part of his undergraduate dissertation project in the hope of finding some interesting remains. Quite unexpectedly he found not one but two quite remarkable teeth of a type never before seen from rocks of this age. I was asked to look at them and give an opinion and even at first glance my jaw dropped!”

“The teeth are of a type so highly evolved that I realised straight away I was looking at remains of Early Cretaceous mammals that more closely resembled those that lived during the latest Cretaceous – some 60 million years later in geological history. In the world of palaeontology there has been a lot of debate around a specimen found in China, which is approximately 160 million years old. This was originally said to be of the same type as ours but recent studies have ruled this out. That being the case, our 145 million year old teeth are undoubtedly the earliest yet known from the line of mammals that lead to our own species.”

Dr Sweetman believes the mammals were small, furry creatures and most likely nocturnal. One, a possible burrower, probably ate insects and the larger may have eaten plants as well.

He said: “The teeth are of a highly advanced type that can pierce, cut and crush food. They are also very worn which suggests the animals to which they belonged lived to a good age for their species. No mean feat when you’re sharing your habitat with predatory dinosaurs!”

The teeth were recovered from rocks exposed in cliffs near Swanage which has given up thousands of iconic fossils. Grant, now reading for his Master’s degree at The University of Portsmouth, said that he knew he was looking at something mammalian but didn’t realise he had discovered something quite so special. His supervisor, Dave Martill, Professor of Palaeobiology, confirmed that they were mammalian, but suggested Dr Sweetman, a mammal expert should see them.

Professor Martill said: “We looked at them with a microscope but despite over 30 years’ experience these teeth looked very different and we decided we needed to bring in a third pair of eyes and more expertise in the field in the form of our colleague, Dr Sweetman.

“Steve made the connection immediately, but what I’m most pleased about is that a student who is a complete beginner was able to make a remarkable scientific discovery in palaeontology and see his discovery and his name published in a scientific paper. The Jurassic Coast is always unveiling fresh secrets and I’d like to think that similar discoveries will continue to be made right on our doorstep.”

One of the new species has been named Durlstotherium newmani, christened after Charlie Newman, the landlord of the Square and Compass pub in Worth Matravers, close to where the fossils were discovered.

Publication: Steven C. Sweetman, et al., “Highly derived eutherian mammals from the earliest Cretaceous of southern Britain,” Acta Palaeontologica Polonica, 2017; doi:10.4202/app.00408.2017

Source: University of Portsmouth

3 Comments on "Newly Discovered Fossils Reveal Man’s Earliest Ancestors"

  1. NOT SCIENCE. This article is just MOAR Darwinian evolutionist stupidity. I’m sick of this dumb crap constantly being jammed down my eye stalks. 160 million yrs….GFYS. You don’t know that. All you know is that those fossils were once alive and now they are dead and they are older than YOU.
    That’s it, past that it is just faith and belief in the constantly lying– always B.S.’ing white lab coat “priests of science” mantras and unquestioned assumptions.

    So here’s the real truth: GOD MADE MAN, the WORLD, and all that is in IT. Dinosaurs are MONSTERS, not created by GOD, but by evil things. They were created to eat the children of men. One of the purposes of the Deluge was to wipe out all these monsters. The evidence of this is the huge graveyards of bones that “scientists” are finding. These things are not MILLIONS OF YEARS old, they lived up to the time the floodwaters came and swept all life not in the ark away.

    Now if fossils of dinosaurs are near-infinitely old, then how is it that they gooey middles where soft tissue and viable DNA are found? Oops, these lying “social narrative building” scientists don’t tell you about THAT.

    Stop believing in idiotic lies. Evolution is pure stupidity, it cannot hold up to any critical thinking.

  2. Pyra is not a moron, he is just time blind. Most of us struggle to visualize infinity in our minds, most people until the recent thousand or so years struggled to visualize big numbers which is why most ancient texts talk about ‘many’ as ten thousand, or twenty thousand in China. Pyra and other flat earthers cannot visualize, make real in their minds, time beyond a few thousand years, maybe seven thousand; to support this to them, obvious fact, the have to deny all evidence to the contrary. It is not an accident that most of these time blind people are also semi-literate.

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