New reptile-like mammal discovered in Utah modifies history

CISCO, Utah - A new mammal that is similar to a reptile was discovered in Cisco, Utah, and it is changing the way scientists are viewing history.

Paleontologists discovered the uncrushed skull in 2006, but the research has just been completed to determine its species and migration.

It’s called the “Cifellidon Wahkarmoosuch.” It’s named after the paleontologist who found it, Richard Cifelli.

The 130 million-year-old skull shows that during the Mesozoic Era, the animal was very large for its' species. The reptile-mammal also has legs that indicate it was a burrower.

“A lot of these things were burrowers to keep from getting stepped on by dinosaurs,” said Utah state paleontologist James Kirkland.  “It’s a huge animal, it’s about the size of a rabbit. For a Mesozoic mammal, this is like Godzilla.  This is a very big Mesozoic mammal.”

Kirkland said while its skull was found in Utah, teeth from the same animal were found in North Africa. This means the animal most likely migrated before the continental split millions of years ago.

The discovery of fossilized remnants of the same animal in two different continents also means that geologists' history of Pangea is most likely wrong.

“These animals were not probably swimming across oceans, these things were at least island hopping between these continents and show this connection,” explained Kirkland.  “So, this is really exciting because it brought the date back at least 15 million years younger than we thought any connections in the southern hemisphere would have been. In fact, we might have evidence that it’s a little later than that.”

“It would have still been egg-laying but would have been covered with fur and had mammary glands to feed its young,” said Kirkland.

He compared it to a platypus or the spiny anteater species.

If you want to see the new mammal on display, you can visit it at the Natural History Museum of Utah in the “Past Worlds Gallery.”