News of the WeekPaleontology

'Fantastic' Fossil Helps Narrow Data Gap

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Science  26 Apr 2002:
Vol. 296, Issue 5568, pp. 637-639
DOI: 10.1126/science.296.5568.637a

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The ancient lakebeds of China's Liaoning Province, renowned for their feathered dinosaurs, have yielded the complete, fur-shrouded skeleton of the most ancient placental mammal yet discovered. The shrew-sized creature--described in this week's issue of Nature --is called Eomaia, from the Greek for "dawn mother." Although none of Eomaia's own descendants are alive today, scientists say the specimen's beautifully preserved anatomical features can help them pin down relationships among early mammals as well as serve as a reference point for sorting out living placental groups.