A small marsupial relative that lived with the dinosaurs 69 million years ago has been discovered in the Arctic. The creature, which was the size of a mouse, lived on the northernmost landmass which means that at that high latitude it would have been in complete darkness for four months of the year.
Jaelyn Eberle, who is the curator of vertebrate paleontology at the University of Colorado, Boulder Museum of Natural History, and one of the people who discovered the new species, discussed the surprising discovery by saying, “We don’t think about finding tiny marsupials at 85 degrees north latitude.”
Although the Earth’s climate was warmer 69 million years ago than it is today, the Arctic’s average temperature still would have only been about 43 degrees Fahrenheit. Eberle suggested that these creatures perhaps lived in burrows underground because of the cold weather. It would have also ran around the conifer forests where the dinosaurs roamed, such as the meat-eating relative of the Tyrannosaurus rex and the herbivore duck-billed dinosaurs.
The side of a steep riverbank in Alaska was where scientists discovered the jawbone as well as the tiny teeth of the animal which they named Unnuakomys hutchisoni. In the native Inupiaq language, “unnuak” translates to “night” while “mys” is the Greek word for “mouse”.
Studies conducted revealed that the “night mouse” was part of a group named Metatheria which also consists of marsupials from today. It only weighed approximately one ounce and it is believed that it ate insects because of its sharp teeth.
In other news, an Arabian Caracal has been spotted in Jebel Hafeet National Park in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. The sand-colored, medium-sized cat with long, tufted black ears was last seen in Abu Dhabi 35 years ago in 1984.
The footage of the caracal was captured on one of the more-than 45 cameras that are operated by the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD). They use these cameras to monitor animal species that are considered to be threatened in Abu Dhabi. What’s even more amazing is that they were able to take photographs of the male caracal during the day as well as at night.
While there are caracals in the mountainous areas, it’s rare to see one on the Arabian Peninsula because of the destruction of habitat as well as illegal hunting in the area. In fact, it was so rarely seen that it was considered to be extinct in the wild.
“The rediscovery of the Arabian Caracal in Abu Dhabi highlights not only the importance of the preservation of vital habitats in the emirate, but also sheds light on the advanced research tools and methods we apply to learn more about our environment and all that it encompasses,” said Dr. Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri who is the acting secretary-general at EAD.