A cat-sized mammal dubbed “crazy beast” lived on Madagascar among some of the last dinosaurs to walk the Earth, scientists have revealed.
The 66-million-year-old fossil is described in the journal Nature.
Its discovery challenges previous assumptions that mammals would have had to be very small – the size of mice – to survive alongside dinosaurs.
Researchers say this individual animal weighed 3kg (6.6lbs) and had not reached its full adult size.
Scientists think that the badger-like creature, known as Adalatherium, would have burrowed – helping it to evade predatory dinosaurs. This could explain how it evolved to such a size.
Before mammals took over the Earth, they probably had to run and hide from the much larger dinosaurs that ruled our planet – not to mention crocodiles and constrictor snakes.
Scientists hope the find will help them understand how mammals developed into the diverse array of species that we see today.
The name “Adalatherium” is translated from the Malagasy and Greek languages and means “crazy beast”.
Its discovery “bends and even breaks lots of rules”, said David Krause of Denver Museum of Nature and Science, who led the research,