When we normally think of a squirrel we think of a cute little furry creature that goes around gathering nuts and acorns all day as they stock up for the winter. Or at least that’s what I think of…. But did you know that a carnivorous squirrel discovered in Argentina has given paleontologists a whole new idea of what things were like during the dinosaur reign?During a 2002 dig in Argentina, the fossilized remains of a creature bearing very sharp fanged teeth was uncovered and it was quite obvious this was a mammal of some sort. This newly discovered species was quickly named Cronopio dentiacutus due to it’s elongated snout and sharp vampire like fangs. According to their best estimation the creature was somewhere between 8 inches to a foot in length.
Although this creature wasn’t very big, it still appeared it could deliver quite a kill shot with those monstrous fangs. You would think that during the dinosaur era the squirrel would of been much larger. But according to science most mammals didn’t grow into large creatures until after the dinosaurs were extinct. I suppose this was a evolutionary attempt to be small enough to hide from the massive stone age predators.
Carnivorous Squirrel Uncovered
Although the skull was discovered in 2002, it wasn’t until 2005 that the tedious work was done. Scientists sent the skull to a tech that continued the work by removing all the debris and rock from it. As you can imagine this skull was encased in hard rock deposits after being buried and fossilized for millions of years.
This off site excavation of the skull took three years to accomplish, but after it was said and done, what appeared amazed the team of scientists. It was in fact a saber-toothed squirrel, or at least a creature strongly resembling what we know as a squirrel today. This amazing discover just proved how little is actually known about the living creatures that dwelled on this planet in eras past.
Here’s a quote from Guillermo Rougier, he is a paleontologist from the University of Louisville, Kentucky, who was in charge of the project.
“When the movie Ice Age came out, we thought the squirrel character in it looked ridiculous, but then we found something like it.” … “This animal looks very peculiar, with long snout and canines, and it highlights that we know so little. Surprises like this are bound to happen.”
Will There be More Than Just a Squirrel Discovered?
There are most certainly more ancient mammals yet to be uncovered, squirrels included. But keep in mind how many millions of years ago these creatures thrived. This period ranged from 65 to 220 million years ago and like mentioned before, the mammals didn’t rule the Earth until after the dinosaur period was over. According to what scientists know, they’ve barely uncovered one mammal to account for each year between the 65 and 220 million year stretch.
So needless to say, there’s still a long road of research ahead of us, I wonder if some day scientists will be digging up our remains and saying, “What an odd looking creature!”
Is it possible that carnivorous squirrels still roam the Earth and may be acting on the instincts of their ancestors? There’s a neat page on Carnivorous Squirrels that you may want to check out.