While the exact nature of the extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs remains up for debate, one thing is certain: whatever happened, not much lived to see the other side. But scientists can now add one more hardy creature to the list of survivors – a small, beaver-like mammal known as Kimbetopsalis simmonsae.
That may seem like a mouthful, but the name is a scientific nod to the location of the initial find, Kimbeto, New Mexico… and an American Museum of Natural History researcher who specializes in multituberculates. So called for the tubercles that line their molars, creatures like Kimbetopsalis simmonsae – hereafter known as Primeval Beaver – used to live side by side with dinosaurs. According to Scientific American, Primeval Beaver not only frolicked throughout the Cretaceous Period, right up through the mass extinction, but also thrived for a mind-boggling 30 million years after the dinosaurs were nothing but bones.
In fact, it looks as though the loss of the dinosaurs did Primeval Beaver some favors. While earlier examples of multituberculates have always been small, around the size of a rat, later specimens show weights of up to 220 lbs. This suggests that dinosaurs may have kept Primeval Beaver on a tight leash, size-wise, and that the creatures flourished once Earth’s environment reset.
Primeval Beaver not only survived the extinction event that killed the dinosaurs, but proceeded to thrive like never before.
We have University of Nebraska student Carissa Raymond to thank for this toothy find; as UNL Today reports, Raymond discovered evidence of Primeval Beaver’s distinctive molars on her very first dig in the San Juan Basin. As her professor noted, the fossils indicate the first new multituberculate in the San Juan Basin in over 100 years.
As for what caused that mass extinction that took out everything but a few select and stubborn creatures like Primeval Beaver? The jury is out, but as science and technology progress, answers are surely on the horizon.