WASHINGTON (TIP): Scientists have found that the first placental mammal lived between 88.3 to 91.6 million years ago, suggesting that the ancestor of humans shared the planet with dinosaurs. The study challenges previous research, which on the basis of fossil evidence had theorized that the first placental mammal arose after the dinosaurs died out. Placental mammals today include humans and all other mammals except those that lay eggs or have pouches (marsupials).
“When dinosaurs died out, many ecological niches became vacant, and placental mammals took over,” study lead author Mario dos Reis at University College London told Discovery News. “The placental ancestor diversified and evolved into the modern mammals we see today, such as rodents, deer, whales, horses, bats, carnivores, monkeys and ultimately humans. If dinosaurs had not died out, then placental mammals may not have had the opportunity to diversify the way they did, and our own species would not have evolved!” added dos Reis. Researchers analysed 36 complete mammal genomes together with information from the mammal fossil record. The results determined placental mammals originated in the Cretaceous period.