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Discovered Skull From Madagascar May Help Researchers Understand Evolution of Mammals

Update Date: Nov 10, 2014 03:02 PM EST

Researchers have discovered a bizarre fossil skull from Madagascar that reveals that mammals who lived during the dinosaur age were puny and weighed less than a pound, according to a new study.

The fossil belongs to a group of elusive extinct mammals called gondwanatherians, which is only known about from several teeth and jaw fragments. According to the study, these mysterious mammals lived about 72 million to 66 millions years ago. 

"The skull is amazingly complete," said lead researcher David Krause, a professor of anatomical sciences at Stony Brook University in New York, to LiveScience. "What's most remarkable about it is its size. [The skull] is about 5 inches long, which may not seem that large, but for mammals at the time, it was enormous."

The discovered fossils also gave some clue about the animal's vision and smell. The creature's large eye sockets suggest that it had large eyes that allowed it to see well in low-light conditions, Krause said in a statement. 

"This is a whole group of mammals that that we knew nothing about at all 30 years ago. Now we have a complete skull that really helps us document what the gondwanatherians were."

The study was published in the journal Nature

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