An international team of scientists from the University of Chicago and Beijing Museum of Natural History have discovered fossils of two extinct mammals that lived in China some 160 million years ago. The findings reveal that these mammalian ancestors belonging to Jurassic period already evolved to glide and live in trees.
According to a statement coming from the University of Chicago, Maiopatagium furculiferum and Vilevolodon diplomylos are the oldest known gliders in the long history of early mammals with long limbs, long hand and foot fingers, and wing-like membranes for tree-to-tree gliding.
Maiopatagium was 23 centimetres from nose to tail, and probably weighed around 120 to 170 grams, where as Vilevolodon left a fossil just 8 centimetres long, and might have weighed a tiny 35 to 55 grams.
The study that was published in the journal Nature, explains the abilities of these creatures to evovle through tough living conditions in that period and gave them a better access to food than their land-bound counterparts.
Zhe-Xi Luo, professor of organismal biology and anatomy at the University of Chicago and an author on both papers said, "These Jurassic mammals are truly ‘the first in glide'. In a way, they got the first wings among all mammals."
"With every new mammal fossil from the Age of Dinosaurs, we continue to be surprised by how diverse mammalian forerunners were in both feeding and locomotor adaptations. The groundwork for mammals’ successful diversification today appears to have been laid long ago", he further added.