Saturday, September 21, 2019
The skye times mobile

A Jurassic mammal found on the Isle of Skye apparently fed milk to its young.

The evidence comes from studies made by palaeontologists from National Museums Scotland in Edinburgh and the University of Oxford.  

A two centimetre-long jaw was discovered on the Isle of Skye in 2015 and is one of the most complete fossils of the mammal to be found outside of China.  

Using micro-CT scanning technology, they were able to identify milk teeth and, inside the jaw, adult teeth that had not yet erupted through the gums.  The mammal, called Wareolestes rex, replaced its teeth once, like humans and other mammals, according to the scientists.  

Scientists suggest adult females secreted milk onto a bare patch of their skin for their young to lap up.  

Elsa Panciroli, the PhD student who led the research of the fossil, said: "Our Scottish fossil jaw is over 2cm long, so Wareolestes was unusually large, closer to a guinea pig in stature."  She goes on to say that the creature's diet probably consisted of insects.  "It adds to a growing understanding that mammals were more variable in size and ecology in the Jurassic than scientists previously expected."

She continues: "This discovery, and many more to come, not only add to the list of Scottish Mesozoic mammals, but suggest we're only just beginning to understand the true diversity of life on the Isle of Skye during the Middle Jurassic."

Photograph and illustration by Elsa Panciroli. 

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