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An international team of researchers has announced that it has found the first new fossil species of a mammal to emerge in the past 10 million years. The new species has been named Korycistola mexicana and is considered the oldest known mammal found in the entire North Atlantic region.
The Korycistola mexicana new species, which was found by three separate lines of research, is unique in its type of mammalian lineage.
The research reveals that it is an allo-somnid, which is an animal in which the head and body form two distinct parts as in insects or crustaceans. Because of its ability to move its head around, it is a good candidate for being the oldest known mammal, and most closely related to a group of animals, the coleoids, which includes whales, dolphins and dolphins and porpoises.
“This new species is the closest ancestor of the coleoids. It is the first animal fossil found that belongs to this family,” said lead author Matthew Lenton from the University of Bristol. “We believe it could be one of the oldest mammals to evolve the ability to move its head around. It is also considered to be the first new mammal species to develop the specialized mouthparts it now has for feeding. The skull is unusual for a mexicana, because it has a very small chin. It appears to have a completely different brain structure compared to the modern mexicana, giving a lot of flexibility to the animal.”
The specimen is part of the Dunefossil Creek Formation in southwest Utah. It measures 13.5 centimeters (6 inches) long and was discovered by John A. Brown, a paleobiologist at Brigham Young University at Provo, Utah, and colleagues in 2008, although it had been discovered several centuries earlier in 1889.
“It was a great surprise to the authors to see this animal in the same area as the fossil records on the west coast of North America where the coleoids lived 15 million years ago,” said Brown, also an author of the study. “We believe this is our first new mammal specimen from this group of animals and the oldest to be found there.”
The authors note that the earliest fossil mammals were first seen in the southern continents and then expanded
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