Human ancestor got to ride on the backs of dinosaurs
However - placental mammal had very little in common with humans. See picture -
Having missed the dinosaurs by quite a few millennium, give or take a few, humans missed out on the golden opportunity to ride on the backs of them. It's heartening to know that a distant relative of the human did get to ride on the backs of dinosaur, although it must be stressed that the first placental mammal held little resemblance to a human. See above picture.
According to the study, as published in the latest issue of Biology Letters, the first placental mammal lived from 88.3 to 91.6 million years ago.
Then again, this may not be the case - maybe mammals and dinosaurs never frolicked together under prehistoric skies. Based solely on fossil evidence, which theorized this "mother of all placental mammals" arose after the dinosaurs died out. Researchers now believe that it preceded the non-avian dinosaur extinction.
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Another sobering thought: if the dinosaurs didn't die off, we wouldn't be here.
"When dinosaurs died out, many ecological niches became vacant, and placental mammals took over," lead author Mario dos Reis says. "The placental ancestor diversified and evolved into the modern mammals we see today, such as rodents, deer, whales, horses, bats, carnivores, monkeys and ultimately humans."
"If dinosaurs had not died out, then placental mammals may not have had the opportunity to diversify the way they did, and our own species would not have evolved!" added dos Reis, a research associate in the Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment at University College London.
Analyzing 36 complete mammal genomes together with information from the mammal fossil record, the results determined placental mammals originated in the Cretaceous.
Reis explained that the DNA of organisms accumulates changes, called mutations, at a constant rate in time, which is referred to as the "molecular clock."
As an example, certain DNA in humans and other apes mutates at a pace of about one percent every 10 million years. The molecular clock is said to run a bit fast in some species and a little slow in others.
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