Article

Nature 444, 889-893 (14 December 2006) | doi:10.1038/nature05234; Received 22 May 2006; Accepted 4 September 2006

There is a Corrigendum (1 March 2007) associated with this document.

A Mesozoic gliding mammal from northeastern China

Jin Meng1,2, Yaoming Hu2,3, Yuanqing Wang2, Xiaolin Wang2 and Chuankui Li2

  1. Division of Paleontology, American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West at 79th Street, New York, New York 10024, USA
  2. Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, PO Box 643, Beijing 100044, China
  3. Present address: Department of Anatomical Sciences, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York 11794–8081, USA.

Correspondence to: Jin Meng1,2Yaoming Hu2,3 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to J.M. (Email: jmeng@amnh.org) or Y.H. (Email: huyaoming@ivpp.ac.cn).

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Gliding flight has independently evolved many times in vertebrates. Direct evidence of gliding is rare in fossil records and is unknown in mammals from the Mesozoic era. Here we report a new Mesozoic mammal from Inner Mongolia, China, that represents a previously unknown group characterized by a highly specialized insectivorous dentition and a sizable patagium (flying membrane) for gliding flight. The patagium is covered with dense hair and supported by an elongated tail and limbs; the latter also bear many features adapted for arboreal life. This discovery extends the earliest record of gliding flight for mammals to at least 70 million years earlier in geological history, and demonstrates that early mammals were diverse in their locomotor strategies and lifestyles; they had experimented with an aerial habit at about the same time as, if not earlier than, when birds endeavoured to exploit the sky.

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