Until recently, all we knew about Mesozoic mammals was that they were small, shrew-like animals that waited their time and did not diversify until the dinosaurs became extinct. The past few years has seen this view challenged, with several much larger animals described, all showing signs of specialisation. The latest is a squirrel-sized glider said to be from a new mammalian order. Dated as Early Cretaceous (and it may be Jurassic), this is said to extend the â€œearliest record of gliding flight for mammals to at least 70 million years earlier in geological history.â€ The degree of specialisation has not been predicted nor expected by Darwinists, who look for gradual changes over time. Yet, â€œthis was just totally out of nowhere,â€ said Dr. Meng, the lead academic working on the fossil. Specialised features are not unexpected if a design perspective is adopted. This argument has been well-documented in the context of the Cambrian Explosion animals. Here is a striking example from the mammals.
A Mesozoic gliding mammal from northeastern China
Jin Meng, Yaoming Hu, Yuanqing Wang, Xiaolin Wang and Chuankui Li
Nature 444, 889-893 (14 December 2006) | doi:10.1038/nature05234
Abstract: Gliding flight has independently evolved many times in vertebrates. Direct evidence of gliding is rare in fossil records and is unknown in mammals from the Mesozoic era. Here we report a new Mesozoic mammal from Inner Mongolia, China, that represents a previously unknown group characterized by a highly specialized insectivorous dentition and a sizable patagium (flying membrane) for gliding flight. The patagium is covered with dense hair and supported by an elongated tail and limbs; the latter also bear many features adapted for arboreal life. This discovery extends the earliest record of gliding flight for mammals to at least 70 million years earlier in geological history, and demonstrates that early mammals were diverse in their locomotor strategies and lifestyles; they had experimented with an aerial habit at about the same time as, if not earlier than, when birds endeavoured to exploit the sky.
For further reading: Wilford, J.N., Flying Mammal Found from 125 Million Years Ago, New York Times, December 13, 2006.
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