Researchers at the University of Bristol and the University of Fribourg in Switzerland say they have found evidence that human ancestors briefly lived at the same time as the dinosaurs. Scientists have often debated whether placental mammals – a group of animals that includes humans, dogs, and bats – existed at the same time as dinosaurs.
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Scientists have been able to understand a lot about the history of Earth thanks to fossils. However, until now the fossils of placental mammals that have been discovered are younger than 66 million years old. It was then that an asteroid hit Earth, which led to the mass extinction of non-avian dinosaurs. This is why some scientists believe that placental mammals did not exist alongside the dinosaurs.
A recent analysis of the molecular clock data looked at the evolution of DNA and protein sequences over time. Lead author Emily Carlisle of Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences said: “We pulled together thousands of fossils of placental mammals and were able to see the patterns of origination and extinction of the different groups. Based on this, we could estimate when placental mammals evolved”. Using statistics, researchers have shown how the earliest forms of placental mammals emerged during the Cretaceous period and therefore co-existed with the dinosaurs for a short period of time.
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