A Taste for Dinosaurs

Were early mammals timid creatures suitable only for eating? Not all of them, suggest two remarkable fossils from China

Conventional wisdom has long held that mammals spent millions of years in Darwinian limbo. As long as dinosaurs roamed the earth, our distant ancestors never got to be much more than cringing, shrewlike creatures that slinked out at night to nibble timorously on plants and insects when the terrible lizards were asleep. Only when a rogue comet wiped the dinosaurs out, went the story, did mammals begin to earn a little evolutionary respect.

But that picture changed dramatically last week with the announcement in Nature of two impressive fossils. One, of a brand-new species dubbed Repenomamus giganticus, demolishes the notion that...

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