Programs & Services

New Fossil tells of survival and rapid evolution for ancient group of mammals

October 01, 2015

(Albuquerque, NM – October 1, 2015) -  A new fossil from an ancient group of mammals is providing scientists with new information about how mammals survived a mass extinction and flourished in the aftermath.

 The fossil is from a group of mammals – known as multituberculates – that lived along with the dinosaurs for 100 million years. They were mostly small and resembled today’s rodents, with enlarged incisors and molars with many cusps. Some may have fed on plants and leaves.

 They were among the few land-animals that survived the extinction that killed the dinosaurs. After the extinction, they thrived for a brief time, but then dwindled to extinction about 35 million years ago. They may have been outcompeted by rodents.

 The new species, Kimbetopsalis simmonsae, was found in the San Juan Basin of northwestern New Mexico last summer. It has helped scientists reconstruct the family tree of this particular group of multituberculates which includes the biggest species of multituberculate, Taeniolabis, that weighed as much as 100 kg – about the size of a large beaver.Kimbetopsalis simmonsae lived only about 500 thousand years after the dinosaur extinction. It may have been a forebear to Taeniolabis – it was a bit smaller and occurred about 200 thousand years earlier.

 The study, carried out by the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, the University of Edinburgh, and the University of Nebraska, was published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. It was supported by the Marie Curie Foundation, the Natural Environment Research Council, the US Bureau of Land Management, and the National Science Foundation.

 Dr Thomas Williamson of the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, who led the research, said: “New Mexico is especially famous for its record of Paleocene mammals. Fossils such as these are critical for telling us how animals survived truly catastrophic environmental change. Multituberculates were among the first mammals to thrive in the post-apocalyptic world following the mass extinction that killed the dinosaurs.”

 For further information, please contact: Dr. Tom Williamson (USA), tel 505 841 2835

Dr Steve Brusatte (UK), tel 07858 129629, email

# # #

New Mexico CulturePass

Your ticket to New Mexico's exceptional Museums and Historic Sites.
From Indian treasures to space exploration, world-class folk art to awesome dinosaurs—our museums and monuments celebrate the essence of New Mexico every day.
More Info »

Cultural Atlas of New Mexico Mobile App

Where do you belong?
The Cultural Atlas of New Mexico leads you to historic and cultural places throughout the Land of Enchantment. Organized by region, proximity and interest, the Cultural Atlas will help you find where you belong.

Get it on Google Play

Featured DCA Exhibitions

No Idle Hands: The Myths & Meanings of Tramp Art

Tramp art is the product of industry, a style of woodworking from the late 19th and early 20th centuries that made use
more »

Segesser Hide Paintings

Though the source of the Segesser Hide Paintings is obscure, their significance cannot be clearer: the hides are rare
more »

Stepping Out: 10,000 Years of Walking the West

Footwear is evocative. It tells us about belonging, love, and social aspiration, reflecting the lives of makers and
more »

Horizons: People & Place in New Mexican Art

Drawn primarily from the New Mexico Museum of Art’s extensive collection, Horizons shows the wide and dynamic
more »