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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Surprisingly Ancient Mammals

I just LOVE doing these animal posts! Heck I love animals. They're a lot of fun. Well, most of them are. Cats are absolutely no fun at all. But all other animals are a lot of fun to watch and have around. Anyways, in this post I am going to look at some mammals that are surprisingly old as a species or family. Some of these mammals even date back to the age of the dinosaurs, which is really rare in modern mammal families. Most mammal families that were around during the dinosaur age went extinct with the dinosaurs. But these mammals managed to survive the so-called "KT event", and have even survived to today, right under our feet.

Well, monotremes themselves are pretty ancient, dating back to the early Cretaceous period, about 80 million years ago. They managed to survive mostly by being burrowers. These are the only mammals in the world today that lay eggs, directly linking them to the ancient reptiles that are the ancestors of all living mammals.

Though people today mostly do not like opossums, they are a very ancient family of mammals. They are thought of as being lazy, stupid, disgusting animals. But looking at them at a bio-geographical level, they must be doing something right! Because they are a family that is more than 70 million years old, dating them back to the mid-Cretaceous period. In short, this animal is older than such dinosaurs as Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus Rex. They still display a number of primitive behaviors. People today regard them as stupid. But they are amazing survivors!

Tenrecs are actually the oldest placental mammal in the world. There are several varieties all in the family Tenrecidae, and are dispersed throughout Madagascar and part of central Africa. This little-known family dates back to the mid-late years of the Cretaceous period, alongside the Opossum family. They are approximately 70 million years old. Many species are diggers, and roost in burrows, which played a part in keeping the family alive.

Lemurs are small, secretive primates, and represent the oldest of the group. Lemurs date back to the original family, Adapidae, which goes back to the late Cretaceous period, about 67 million years ago. Today, Madagascar is known as being the traditional home of lemurs, but there are many varieties of prosimians, which are also found in Africa and Asia. But in their earlier days, they could also be found in Europe and North America. The only reason we have lemurs today is because of the isolation of Madagascar, and mainland lemurs are small and nocturnal.

Foxes are the oldest of the carnivores, dating back to about 65 million years, the late Cretaceous period. The oldest foxes are from Europe, but today, the oldest living fox species is Africa's Bat-eared fox. Bat-eared foxes even still have teeth that are more like those of modern insectivores than like those of true carnivores. The species it's self is very primitive. Today, we see how foxes have become such great survivors; because they are known for being clever animals.

The civets and mongooses are the oldest of the feliforme carnivores. That is to say, the carnivore superfamily that contains the civets and mongooses, hyenas, cats and panthers. The family of civets and mongooses (family: Viverridae) goes back to the early Cenozoic era, about 55 million years ago. Viverrids are a strictly old world family, and while the civets themselves are nocturnal, mongooses are mostly diurnal.

Horses are surprisingly great survivors! Though their diet is extremely specialized, they are very intelligent animals, which has enabled them to survive for so long. The first equine species appeared about 55 million years ago, which makes them older than any other hooved mammal around today. Their quick-wit, and superb running abilities are what has kept this family alive for so long.

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