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Paleontologists have discovered 3 new mammals in Wyoming. Here’s what they found

One of the fossilized jawbones was larger than others found in the area, so scientists named it after a shapeshifting character from J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’

SHARE Paleontologists have discovered 3 new mammals in Wyoming. Here’s what they found
Three new species of condylarths have been discovered.

An artist’s rendering of new species condylarths discovered as fossils by the paleontologists from Colorado University Boulder. The newly identified species are, from left to right, Conacodon hettingeri, Miniconus jeanninae and Beornus honeyi, per UC Boulder.

Banana Art Studio

The fossilized remains of three previously unknown species of mammals have been identified in Wyoming, and paleontologists from the University of Colorado Boulder are credited with the discovery, according to the university.

The discovery of the new mammals — what scientists identified as a type of condylarths, or the small ancestors of modern hoofed animals likes horses and hippos — are helping scientists understand mammalian evolution after the extinction of dinosaurs, Gizmodo reported.

  • The newly identified specials — named Miniconus jeanninae, Conacodon hettingeri and Beornus honeyi — lived during the early Puercan age, a period of time that lasted several hundred thousand years after an asteroid crashed into Earth more than 60 million years ago, according to Gizmodo.
  • “Prior studies on North American mammal faunas from the first ~320,000 years following the mass extinction event had found small rat- to mouse-sized mammals that were fairly generalized in molar morphology,” UC Boulder paleontologist Madelaine Atteberry — the lead author of a study about the discovery — told Gizmodo in an email. “This led to the understanding that mammals were still recovering, and not rapidly diversifying, after the mass extinction event.”

Jaelyn Eberle — a co-author of the new study, geological science professor and a fossil curator at the college’s Museum of Natural History — said scientists have spent a large amount of effort studying the extinction of dinosaurs, but is personally more interested studying life after dinosaurs ran out of time.

  • “We still don’t fully understand what happened after the extinction of the dinosaurs,” said Eberle, in a story published Wednesday by CU Boulder Today..
  • “We don’t have anything quite like condylarths living today, so there’s a lot of speculation about their biology and ecology,” she added of the small mammals.
  • The three new fossilized animals were discovered in the Great Divide Basin area of southern Wyoming. Eberle said the area is “much more diverse in mammal species than what we usually see in the early Puercan.”

One of the jawbones the scientists identified was larger — about cat-sized — than others that had been collected from the region. “It had these large, really bulbous teeth, and we could see even with the naked eye that it was different than the rest,” Atteberry said, according to UC Boulder.

  • The scientist named that new discovery Beornus honeyi — loosely after a character of J.R.R. Tolkien’s book “The Hobbit” named Beorn, a man that can turn himself into a large bear.