Monday, February 11, 2013
Placental Mammal Diversity Exploded After Age of Dinosaurs
An international team of researchers has reconstructed the common ancestor of placental mammals—an extremely diverse group including animals ranging from rodents to whales to humans—using the world’s largest dataset of both genetic and physical traits. In research published in the journal Science (Feb. 7), the scientists reveal that, contradictory to a commonly held theory, placental mammals did not diversify into their present-day lineages until after the extinction event that eliminated non-avian dinosaurs, and about 70 percent of all species on Earth, some 65 million years ago. This finding, and the visualization of the placental ancestor—a small, insect-eating animal— was made with the help of a powerful cloud-based and publicly accessible database called MorphoBank. The Science article is the result of a multi-year collaborative project funded by the National Science Foundation’s Assembling the Tree of Life program.