The Great Divide Basin in Wyoming revealed three new mammalian species. According to the study of the fossils, this group of mammals had quickly evolved right after the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction, where the dinosaurs were erased from the face of the Earth in an instant.

New Condylarthra Mammals: Beornus honeyi, Miniconus jeanninae, and Conacodon hettingeri

Left to right, Conacodon hettingeri, Miniconus jeanninae, Beornus honeyi.
(Photo: Banana Art Studio)

North America was the identified place where these three new mammals inhabited. The species were able to thrive and exist just a few hundred thousand years after the dinosaur extinction, estimated at 328,000 years during the Puercan North American Land Mammal Age.

The discovery of mammals was published in the Journal of Systematic Paleontology, titled "New Earliest Paleocene (Puercan) periptychid 'condylarths' from the Great Divide Basin, Wyoming, USA."

The prehistoric mammals were examined by the paleontologists through their fossils and were identified to be distinct from other known mammalian species through their jaw and teeth remnants. Based on the findings, the three new mammals discovered in Wyoming were part of the mammalian group condylarthra.

Condylarthra or condylarths are an extinct mammal group that includes the ancient ancestors of animals labeled as hoofed placental mammals or advanced ungulates. Examples of condylarths are most of the four-legged farm and wild animals we see today, such as elephants, horses, hippos, and cows.

Condylarths lived in the Puercan North American Land Mammal Age along with other animals, but most of them were not as big as the hooved animals, scaling at rodent's size.

Beornus honeyi was one of the mammals that were discovered under condylarths. This animal had a size comparable to the modern cats, and its name was inspired by a character in one of J.R.R. Tolkien's novels, 'The Hobbit.'

Beornus honeyi had extraordinary physical features like unusual molar and teeth structures. Tolkiens' novel character is capable of turning his physical appearance into a gigantic black bear which allowed him to earn the titled 'skin-changer.'

Miniconus jeanninae and Conacodon hettingeri were the other two mammal species that were unearthed along with the Beornus honeyi, which had features comparable to a ring-tailed cat.

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Prehistoric Omnivorus Mammals Under Periptychidae Family Had Evident Teeth, Anatomical Evolution After Cretaceous-Paleogene Extinction

The condylarths are determined to belong within the family of Periptychidae. This family has a dental structure that sets them apart from other condylarths. Their teeth have vertical enamels, and their molars are buffed, which aligns them to the prehistoric omnivorous creatures.

According to a report by CNN, the three Periptychidae were either fond of meat and plants or had a plant-focused diet. Beornus honeyi contains massive molar teeth that could grow to about 8 millimeters.

University of Colorado Boulder Geological Sciences Department expert and lead author of the study Madelaine Atteberry said that right after the dinosaurs were wiped out, the abundant food left on the planet allowed the mammals to develop a bigger, better anatomical structure.

The mass extinction of dinosaurs was a total advantage for the remaining mammals to diversify and improve in a short amount of time. 

The condylarth fossils were gathered from 2001 to 2011 with the help of the paleontology experts Malcolm McKenna, James Honey, and Jeannine Honey, who were the inspiration for the name of the two new mammal species discovered at Wyoming's Great Divide Basin at Red Desert.

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