Fossils of Earliest Known Gliding Mammals Found in China

UNITED NEWS INTERNATIONAL (UNI) — Some ancestors of modern mammals might have glided over the heads of dinosaurs.

That’s according to scientists who found fossils of two glider species in northeastern China’s Hebei province.

According to new research published in the journal Nature, one was about the size of a squirrel while the other was mouse-sized. Evidence of wing-like skin membranes between their wrists and ankles suggest they could glide between trees.

Scientists say the animals lived 160 million years ago during the Jurassic Period, which would make them the oldest known gliders in the mammal kingdom.

While they were part of a branch of the mammalian family tree that’s now extinct, scientists think they played an important part in the evolution of mammals alive today.

One study author said these ancient gliders show “the groundwork for mammals’ successful diversification today appears to have been laid long ago.”