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A tiny marsupial relative that lived in the twilight of the dinosaurs, as well as in literal twilight for much of the year, has been discovered in the Arctic.
The mouse-sized creature lived 69 million years ago on the northernmost landmass of its day, at the equivalent latitude of the northern islands of the Svalbard archipelago today. Its high latitude would have put it in total darkness for four months out of each year.
Marsupials - Degrees - Latitude - Jaelyn - Eberle
"We don't think about finding tiny marsupials at 85 degrees north latitude," said Jaelyn Eberle, the curator of vertebrate paleontology at the University of Colorado, Boulder Museum of Natural History and one of the discoverers of the new species.
This mural shows an artist's conception of the mouse-sized animal scampering at the feet of the dinosaurs.
Teeth - Bones - Night - Mouse - Soil
The teeth and bones of the "night mouse" have been popping out of the soil occasionally over decades of excavation along the Colville River in the North Slope of Alaska. It's an unusual place for excavations: Paleontologists have to wear hardhats while balanced on the steep riverbanks, because the banks periodically crumble and slough off dirt and rock into the river. The sound of these mini-avalanches is audible from the tents on the sandbanks where the researchers camp each night, Eberle said.
Once the researchers find the particular layers, Druckenmiller said, they shovel them out wholesale into buckets. The clay and dirt are then washed out, and the paleontologists, along with their students and research assistants, sift through buckets upon buckets of the leftover chunky grains under microscopes.
Teeth - Eberle - Inches - Millimeters - Length
Most of the mammal teeth, Eberle said, max out at about 0.06 inches (1.5 millimeters) in length. So far, though, Eberle and other researchers from several universities involved in the project have found about 70 U. hutchisoni teeth and a lower jawbone.
That's enough to make an estimate of...
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