U of L Scientist Discovers Extinct ‘Saber-Toothed Squirrel’

by Erica Peterson on November 3, 2011

A professor from the University of Louisville was among several scientists to uncover and identify the bones of what’s being called similar to a saber-toothed squirrel.

The skulls were discovered in Argentina, and are from the Late Cretaceous period—when dinosaurs still roamed the earth. The animal—named Cronopio dentiacutus by the paleontologists—was previously unknown to science.

Paleontologist Guillermo Rougier teaches at the University of Louisville and was part of the team that identified the bones. He says the discovery is significant not only because Cronopio was previously unknown, but because of the intact skulls and jawbones scientists found.

“When you’re trying to study an event that happened many million years ago, usually you have to deal with just fragmentary information. A few teeth, a fragment of jaw, something like that. When you have a skull and jaw, it provides us with a lot more information, so we can push the borders of what we know much further.”

The animal the team found is more closely related to the shrew, but Rougier says it looks something like a character in the 2002 animated film Ice Age.

“It compares quite favorably with the saber-toothed squirrel of Ice Age. But it’s not saber-toothed, or a squirrel. It’s just a completely extinct animal.”

Rougier says Cronopio is likely the “great, great grandfather” of marsupials. The discovery was published in the journal Nature.

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