Newsdeck

Newsdeck

UK student discovers 145 million-year-old ‘rat’ teeth

A student at a British university has uncovered teeth from rat-like creatures who lived 145 million years ago and have distant links to humans, a scientific journal reported Tuesday. 

The discovery was made on the coast of Dorset, southwest England, by undergraduate Grant Smith as he sifted through rocks at the University of Portsmouth.

“Quite unexpectedly he found not one but two quite remarkable teeth of a type never before seen from rocks of this age,” said Steve Sweetman, a research fellow at the university.

“I was asked to look at them and give an opinion and even at first glance my jaw dropped!” he wrote in the journal Acta Palaeontologica Polonica.

The teeth are believed to have belonged to two different species of small, furry creatures which were probably nocturnal and survived on insects and perhaps plants.

“The teeth are of a highly advanced type that can pierce, cut and crush food,” Sweetman said.

“They are also very worn which suggests the animals to which they belonged lived to a good age for their species. No mean feat when you’re sharing your habitat with predatory dinosaurs!”

Despite being markedly different from humans, Sweetman described the animals as “undoubtedly the earliest yet known from the line of mammals that lead to our own species.”

The two species have been named Durlstodon ensomi and Durlstotherium newmani, the latter after a local pub landlord, Charlie Newman.

The discovery was made along Dorset’s “Jurassic Coast”, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which charts 185 million years of history. DM

Gallery

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

A South African Hero: You

There’s a 99.7% chance that this isn’t for you. Only 0.3% of our readers have responded to this call for action.

Those 0.3% of our readers are our hidden heroes, who are fuelling our work and impacting the lives of every South African in doing so. They’re the people who contribute to keep Daily Maverick free for all, including you.

The equation is quite simple: the more members we have, the more reporting and investigations we can do, and the greater the impact on the country.

Be part of that 0.3%. Be a Maverick. Be a Maverick Insider.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

MavericKids vol 3

How can a child learn to read if they don't have a book?

81% of South African children aged 10 can't read for meaning. You can help by pre-ordering a copy of MavericKids.

For every copy sold we will donate a copy to Gift of The Givers for children in need of reading support.