Research Article

An Early Cretaceous Tribosphenic Mammal and Metatherian Evolution

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Science  12 Dec 2003:
Vol. 302, Issue 5652, pp. 1934-1940
DOI: 10.1126/science.1090718

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Derived features of a new boreosphenidan mammal from the Lower Cretaceous Yixian Formation of China suggest that it has a closer relationship to metatherians (including extant marsupials) than to eutherians (including extant placentals). This fossil dates to 125 million years ago and extends the record of marsupial relatives with skeletal remains by 50 million years. It also has many foot structures known only from climbing and tree-living extant mammals, suggesting that early crown therians exploited diverse niches. New data from this fossil support the view that Asia was likely the center for the diversification of the earliest metatherians and eutherians during the Early Cretaceous.

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