An international group of researchers that included Carnegie Museum of Natural History mammalogist John Wible has answered a mystery what has vexed scientists since the fossil Necrolestes patagonensis was discovered in Patagonia in 1891 -- what kind of animal was it?
The team, including researchers from Australia and Argentina, determined that the strange, 16 million-year-old Necrolestes, with its upturned snout and large limbs for digging, is in the mammal evolutionary tree.
The finding moves the endpoint for the fossil's evolutionary lineage forward by 45 million years than had been generally believed beforehand. That means this family of mammals, whose name translates to "grave robber" for its burrowing lifestyle, survived the extinction event that marked the end of the age of dinosaurs.
The scientific paper resolving the mystery of Necrolestes appears today in "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA."