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These mammals lived in China about 130 million years ago.
Paleontologists excavate the bones of a mammoth believed to be up to a million years old at a housing development site.
The average extinction rate is now some 1,000 to 10,000 times faster than the rate that prevailed over the past sixty million years.
They discovered the fossil in sediments, eroded rock particles in layers of earth strata, that belong to the Cretaceous Period (140-65 million years ago).
In rocks laid down as sediments as early as 18 million years ago, the researchers found the fossils of 20 species of rodents that haven't been reported anywhere else in South America.
Other evidence suggests grasses could have first appeared as far back as 80 million years ago.
Susman said he doubted that the specimen would turn out to be much more primitive than Lucy, a representative of the Australopithecus afarensis species that seems to have spanned a period of almost a million years, up until about 3 million years ago.
The Mesozoic era, which began about 225 million years ago and ended 65 million years ago, spans the period when dinos roamed Earth.
2 million years later than it did on other chromosomes, the scientists report.
At the same time the Gobi group was digging up Mononychus bones, another group of scientists was disovering some interesting things about the most primitive flying bird, Archaeopteryx, which lived 147 million years ago.
Earlier last year, paleontologists described two nearly complete fossils of Repenomamus, presumably predatory mammals that lived in China about 130 million years ago (SN: 1/15/05,p.
Detailed chemical studies of the rocks showed that the major fault that raised the Himalayas was most active between 8 million and 4 million years ago.