Mammal From Age Of Dinosaurs Had The Stronger Bite Force Ever Recorded

Posted: Dec 8 2016, 11:50am CST | by , Updated: Dec 8 2016, 11:55am CST, in News | Latest Science News

 
Mammal from Age of Dinosaurs had the Stronger Bite Force Ever Recorded
An illustration of early marsupial relative, Didelphodon vorax. Credit: Misaki Ouchida

An early marsupial relative that lived alongside ferocious dinosaurs had the strongest bite force of any mammal ever found

Mammals from the age of dinosaurs are usually presented as small creatures that lacked the ability of stronger bite and could not rise up until dinosaurs were gone extinct. But paleontologists have recently discovered the fossil remains of an early marsupial relative called Didelphodon vorax that lived alongside the ferocious predators like dinosaurs and had the biting force stronger than any other mammal today.

New research suggests that mammals were diversifying and dispersing during the age of dinosaurs. Among those was this early marsupial Didelphodon that was able to prey on animals ranging from snails to even small dinosaurs.

“What I love about Didelphodon vorax is that it crushes the classic mold of Mesozoic mammals,” said study author Dr. Gregory Wilson from University of Washington. “Instead of a shrew-like mammal meekly scurrying into the shadows of dinosaurs, this badger-sized mammal would've been a fearsome predator on the Late Cretaceous landscape - even for some dinosaurs.”

The fossil remains came from deposits of the Hell Creek Formation in Montana and North Dakota, dating back to around 66 years ago. Previous marsupial relatives have been mostly recognized from isolated teeth and fragments of jaw bones, providing a limited glimpse to their physical features and abilities. This is the first time that a nearly complete fossilized skull of an early marsupial has been discovered in North America.

By analyzing the partial skull of Didelphodon, researchers were able to determine that this marsupial was about the size of today's Virginia opossum and was the largest marsupial relative from the Cretaceous period. To assess its bite force, researchers reconstructed the gaps in skulls through scanning and found that Didelphodon had the strongest bite force of any mammal that has ever lived. Today’s mammals like hyenas and saber-toothed cats were no match to the remarkable bite strength of Didelphodon.

“I expected Didelphodon to have a fairly powerful bite based on the robust skull and teeth, but even I was surprised when we performed the calculations and found that, when adjusted for body size, it was capable of a stronger pound for pound bite than a hyena. That’s a seriously tough mammal.” Co-author Vander Linden said.

The findings also shed more light into the origin of marsupials. Previous researches attribute South America as the origin of marsupials but new research suggests that marsupials originated in North America before dispersing to South America.

Dr. Wilson says. “Our study highlights how, despite decades of paleontology research new fossil discoveries and new ways of analyzing those fossils can still fundamentally impact how we view something as central to us as the evolution of our own clade, mammals.”

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