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Mammals may have flown before birds

Mammals may have flown before birds, new fossil discovery suggests

Mammals may have flown before birds
December 13, 2006

Mammals may have flown before birds according to a fossil discovery by scientists working in China.

Working in the Inner Mongolian region of China, a team of Chinese and American scientists discovered a 125 million year fossil that provides evidence that mammals were capable of gliding flight some 70 million years earlier than previously believed.

An artist’s rendering of the first flying mammal. Chuang Zhao and Lida Xing.

The squirrel-like animal had a fur-covered skin membrane that stretched between the creature’s fore and hind limbs, much like the gliding membrance of present-day flying squirrels. The researchers believe the animal likely fed on insects.

Dr Jin Meng, of the the paper’s authors and a palaeontologist at the American Museum of Natural History, said that the creature the creature may have lived 130 and 165 million years ago. For comparison, the earliest known flying bird, Archaeopteryx, dates from 150 million years ago. Flying bats first appear on the record some 51 million years ago.

The species, named Volaticotherium antiquus, is described in Thursday’s issue of the journal Nature.

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