Almost everyone knows the story of how an asteroid crash eradicated all of the dinosaurs, an event that scientists now say coincided with heavy volcanic activity. However, scientists have recently discovered a new species of ancient mammal that survived the cosmic event leading to the dinosaur’s extinction.
Kimbetopsalis simmonsae, as the new species has been named, was a plant-eating creature that resembeled a beaver. The remains of this large, rodent-like animal have already given scientists clues about how mammals were able to “take over” the planet after the dinosaurs died out.
The lead researcher, Dr. Stephen Brusatte from the University of Edinburgh, says his team found the fossil in New Mexico. His team’s entire study is published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.
“We realized pretty quickly that this was a totally new type of mammal that no one has seen before,” he told BBC News.
Brusatte’s group named the new species after Kimbeto Wash, the area in New Mexico where it was found. The other part of its name is a reference to the creature’s “blade-like teeth.”
K. simmonsae is now extinct, but the species is believed to have originated with dinosaurs during the Jurassic period and prospered for more than 100 million years until they were replaced by rodents.
According to Brusatte:
[During the Jurassic] these animals were pretty small. Then the asteroid hit, wiped out the dinosaurs and suddenly – in geological terms – this [group of animals started to proliferate and get better.
That’s how the rise of mammals started and really the end result of that is us being here today.
Despite the fact the K. simmonsae is no longer with us, scientists have said that this and other mammal discoveries have helped them understand how mammals made it through the extinction event and continued life.