St. Paul, Minn Raymond Rogers, DeWitt Wallace Professor and chair of the Geology Department, is the co-author of a groundbreaking article published today in the scientific journal Nature. The paper details the discovery of a new mammalian fossil in the Mahajanga Basin in Madagascar. Rogers and other members of the international team of researchers have named the bizarre, 66-million-year-old opossum-sized mammal Adalatherium, which is translated from the Malagasy and Greek languages, and means “crazy beast.” The specimen is the most complete and well-preserved skeleton for any Mesozoic-era mammal yet discovered in the southern hemisphere. Mammals, especially ones of this size, were rare during the Cretaceous Period, when dinosaurs ruled much of the earth. 

Professor Rogers has been the lead geologist and one of the long-standing co-principal investigators on the 25-year project, which is funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Geographic Society. Working with local researchers in northwestern Madagascar, the team has unearthed some amazing fossil animals over the last quarter century, including a giant predatory frog (Beelzebufo), a pug-nosed, vegetarian crocodile (Simosuchus), a giant, armored long-necked dinosaur (Rapetosaurus), and a meat-eating, cannibalistic dinosaur (Majungasaurus). None of these earlier finds, however, compare to the completeness of the Adalatherium fossil.   

“Adalatherium is without question the best-preserved specimen that we have yet discovered in the rocks of the Mahajanga Basin,” said Rogers. In his role as lead geologist, Rogers’ work focuses on the age of the rocks and fossils — the nature of the ancient ecosystem — and the ways that incredible fossils like this one get preserved.  

“This animal was likely buried alive and took a different path to the fossil record than its compatriots,” he said. 

To see what the mammal and fossil look like, and hear the serendipitous story behind its discovery, watch the video below.

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April 29 2020

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