A fossil of a sabre-toothed squirrel has been found in Argentina. Scientists said the discovery of the fossil may help illuminate a 60-million year gap in evolutionary history, The State Column reported.
The AP reports that the creature, called Cronopio dentiacutus, had long teeth and large eyes, allowing it to move at night. It is being compared to the squirrel character from the popular animated movie series Ice Age.
When [the movie] Ice Age came out, we thought the squirrel character in it looked ridiculous, but then we found something like it, study leader Guillermo Rougier, a paleontologist at the University of Louisville in Kentucky, told the State Column.
Not much has been known about mammals who lived in the age of the dinosaurs, but this fossil could help, according to the researchers.
During the age of the dinosaurs, no mammal was bigger than a mouse, and they could do what they wanted, but under ground or at night -- out of sight of the dinosaurs, said Apesteguia, a researcher at Maimonides University in Buenos Aires, told the AP.
The fact that the fossil is a skull is especially helpful.
The skull, however, provides us with features of the biology of the animal, Rougier said to Discovery News, making it possible for us to determine this is the first of its kind dating to the early Late Cretaceous period in South America. This time period in South America was somewhat of a blank slate to us. Now we have a mammal as a starting point for further study of the lineage of all mammals, humans included.