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Earth Idle Science

Meet the Saber-Toothed Squirrel 59

Posted by samzenpus
from the we're-going-to-need-a-bigger-acorn dept.
sciencehabit writes "Researchers have discovered the fossil remains of a 94-million-year-old squirrel-like critter with a long, narrow snout and a pair of curved saber-fangs that it would have likely used to pierce its insect prey. The creature, pieced together from skull fragments unearthed in Argentina and dubbed Cronopio dentiacutus, was not ancestral to us or any living mammal. Instead, it belonged to an extinct group called dryolestoids, a cadre of fuzzy mammals that scurried about in the shadow of long-necked dinosaurs."
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Meet the Saber-Toothed Squirrel

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  • by camperdave (969942) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @08:18PM (#37942566) Journal
    Did they find it clutching a fossilized acorn?
  • I'll bet this one didn't "scurry about". Probably the dinosaurs scurried away whenever it came out of its den looking hungry.

  • by Mister Transistor (259842) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @08:20PM (#37942592) Journal

    Yes, it's called a Jackalope - did it have antlers, too?

    • by Loligo (12021)

      Such a dumb name. Anyone that's ever seen one knows they're clearly jackadeer.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    There's no more or less relation to squirrels than any other modern rodent-like mammal. This isn't science, it's marketing.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Indeed. And if the artist's rendition is anything to go by (which it probably isn't) it looks more like a shrew than a squirrel.

    • Tsk! We don't know the genetic distance between this species and squirrels, all you can say is that squirrels aren't direct ancestors and therefore the genetic distance can't be any less than that between squirrels and the common ancestor of all modern rodentia. It can certainly be smaller than the genetic distance between squirrels and rodent-like animals that provably have a TMRCA of comparable age - mammals were quite diverse 94 million yeas ago and this new species may well be from a sub-branch off the

  • by buanzo (542591)
    Argentina! Argentina! Argentina! Argentina! Couldn't help it. Sorry guys. Live long and prosper.
    • And of course the K govt will say its only 8 yrs old, not 94M, and they are responsible for finding it....
  • looks like a weasel with ever so slightly longer teeth

    • by jc42 (318812)

      Yeah; a quick google shows that it's classified in the extinct superorder Dryolestoidea, which has an unclear relationship to modern mammals. It certainly wasn't a rodent, which are in the Euarchontoglires superorder. The rodents themselves split off from that branch a few tens of millions of years later.

      This sort of bizarre misclasification, apparently for the thrill of being able to write "sabre-toothed squirrel", doesn't exactly give a lot of credibility to the article's author.

      The most appropria

      • by jd (1658)

        It's unclear and therefore the superorder (which is morphic, not genetic, and therefore almost certainly wrong -- traditional classifications tend not to hold up under genetic scrutiny) is immaterial.

        Second, it's on here because it's a discovery of a new species. That's a particularly interesting part of science. Linking it with squirrels was no worse a travesty than chaos mathematicians linking storms and butterflies, and certainly no worse than plasma physicists talking of sausage instabilities. Nobody is

        • Nobody said it was a travesty. I just think it's weird and couldn't understand the logical reasoning behind the article's catchy title.

          • by jd (1658)

            The logic is easy. Nobody reads the Firehose, so only catchy titles ever get spotted, and even fewer submit stories in the first place. (It's complex. Or, in some cases, wholly imaginary.)

  • An extinct giant short-faced bear [bbc.co.uk] that went extinct 5 million years ago would have put up a decent fight against Secret Squirrel here. "Our analyses show that it had the most powerful bite of any known terrestrial mammal determined thus far," Dr Wroe told BBC Nature.

    • The North American giant short-faced bear, Arctodus simus, was actually larger, from what I've gathered, and went extinct only 11kya. Maybe it couldn't have bit through a fire hydrant but a 3.5k lb bear 6 ft high at the snout is crazy enough for me.

      • by jd (1658)

        Biting through fire hydrants is terrible, though. You've got to think of the dogs!

        Ok, seriously, yes. I wouldn't have wanted to have met any of the ancient bears. Even the European Cave bear was lethal and psychotic. Nothing after that point matters, unless you're into making slasher horror films and want to make them biologically correct.

  • When do we get this little critter be a pet for one of the humans on the show Terra Nova, or do the idiot science advisers have no clue that mammals even existed 85 million years ago...

    The forests should be chock full of little mammals scurrying about here and there.

    No, they just want top show us the cool and awesome dinosaurs.

    • by Coren22 (1625475)

      That would be because Terra Nova shows on Fox, and Fox has nothing to do with science :)

  • ... as a mount in Everquest 2. Have to buy it off the Station Market though.

    Yes, it's saber tooth and will pull out an acorn to chew on.

  • On reading about this thing, I can't help but imagine a squirrel yelling "BERSERKER CLAW!" as it tears some hapless creature apart.

You can tell how far we have to go, when FORTRAN is the language of supercomputers. -- Steven Feiner

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