St Petersburg University and Tomsk University have discovered a new taxon of mammals from the multituberculates, an extinct taxon of rodent-like allotherian mammals. The newly identified taxon is called Baidabatyr clivosus. Learn more at the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

In summer 2016, a group of researchers headed by SPbU’s Associate Professor, Candidate of Biology, specialist in the Mesozoic vertebrates Pavel Skutschas and Associate Professor, Candidate of Geology and Mineralogy at Tomsk University Stepan Ivantsov were in a paleontological expedition near the Kemchug River in Krasnoyarsk Territory, Russia. While examining fossils of the dinosaur fauna, they found a two-millimeter tooth of a mammal, which was the key to the discovery of the new taxon.

“We have discovered a very primitive specimen in the group: it can be considered as part of the Jurassic period (over 145 mln years old), although it is preserved in the fossil beds of the early Cretaceous period (100-125 mln years old), — said Pavel Skutschas. — This extinct rodent-like species can be regarded as a ‘live’ fossil specimen of its own time. As a result, it has become apparent that the evolution in the West Siberia had been surprisingly stagnant during 40 mln years, with few, if any, changes in the mammals and amphibian”.

The research findings have been published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. The research was carried out by the Director of the Laboratory of Theriology at the Zoological Institute Aleksandr Avrianov; Acting Director of the Borisiak Paleontological Institute, RAS’s Academician Aleksei Lopatin; Asspciate professor of Tomsk University Stepan Ivantsov; SPbU’s graduate and student Ivan Kuzmin and Elizaveta Boitsova.

They refer to the new specimen as “Baidabatyr” as the first part of the word means “baidarka” (a sort of a canoe or kayak)  — this is how you can get to the place where the specimen was discovered near the Kemchug river. The second part of the word refers to an old tradition to name the newly identified specimens in the groups with a Mongolian word “baatar” (a “bogatyr” in Russian and a “warrior” in English), as Mongolia has proved to be the location of the first specimens from the multituberculates. Instead of “baatar”, the researchers, used a similar Turk word “batyr” to name the new taxon.

So far we have never found the multituberculates in the Cretaceous fossil beds in Siberia, said Pavel Skuchas. Although these specimens, by their morphology and behaviour, are similar to rats and hamsters, they are nevertheless not their relatives. They are considered to be the first grass-eating mammals. Moreover, this group had survived a mass extinction at the end of the Cretaceous dated at 65.5 million years ago, when most dinosaurs had died, but had become extinct in the mid of the Cenozoic era, falling under other rodents.

“The specimen is distinctive in a way that they have poisonous spurs on their legs, similar to the ones found on a modern platypus or echidna, — said Pavel Skutschas. — Possibly, poisonous spurs could have been an original feature of all mammals”.