We are closer to proving that the existence of mammals in South America is much older than we imagined. The fossil of an opossum-like animal was discovered by Chilean scientists in the Patagonia region, and it is likely that the creature lived between 72 to 74 million years ago, during the Upper Cretaceous period.

The research team found a part of the fossilized mandible of the species near the Torres del Paine national park. The "find" received the name of Orretherium tzen, an amalgam of Greek and an indigenous language of the region that means "Beast of Five Teeth".

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Scientists believe that the five-toothed beast cohabited with Magallanodon baikashkenke, another rodent-like creature. The existence of the skunk fossil helps to put together the evolutionary puzzle of Gondwanatheria, a group of primitive mammals that coexisted with dinosaurs. 

That's because, until then, only traces of mammals have been found in South America. 

The collective of experts from the University of Chile, together with researchers from the Natural History and La Plata museums in Argentina and the Antarctic Institute of Chile, published the discovery of the skunk fossil in the magazine Scientific Reports.

According to Sergio Soto, a paleontologist at the University of Chile, the findings may be responsible for answering questions that had never been unveiled about the existence of dinosaurs, mammals and other species. “It is being revealed that there is enormous potential, in terms of paleontology, in the extreme south of Chile”, he says.  

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Street: Hindustan Times