Monday, November 7, 2011

Scrat in Real Life

Have you seen the Ice Age movies? If you are like me then Scrat, the neurotic saber-toothed squirrel, is your favorite character. That poor squirrel just can't hold on to his acorn. According to a new paper published in Nature, Scrat may be closer to a real prehistoric creature than the animators realized, anatomically speaking at least.

Meet Cronopio dentiacutus. A fossil from the La Buitrera locality, Río Negro Province, Argentina was identified as a medium-sized dryolestoid, with an extremely enlongated snout and a pair of curved saber-fangs.  Dryolestoids are an extinct mammalian group belonging to the lineage that leads to modern marsupials and placentals. They thrived in South America through the Mesozoic and into the Cenozoic. This specimen was of the early Late Cretaceous (60 million years from previously known), and based on it's dental and cranial features, is unlike previously identified specimens from the Mesozoic.

Artist depiction of Cronopio dentiacutus
Unfortunately for this Scrat-like critter, there were no acorns in the Cretaceous.

The paper:
Rougier, Guillermo W., Sabastiam Apesteguia, and Leandro C. Gaetano (2011) Highly specialized mammalian skulls from the Late Cretaceous of South America. Nature: 479, 98-102. (DOI: 10.1038/nature10591)

ScienceShot Article: Meet the Saber-Toothed Squirrel
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