Named By: Zhe-Xi Luo & John R. Wible - 2005.
Classification: Chordata, Mammalia, Incertae sedis.
Species: F. windscheffeli (type).
Size: 15 centimetres long.
Known locations: USA, Morrison Formation, Colorado, Fruita.
Time period: Kimmeridgian of the Jurassic.
Fossil representation: Almost complete specimen.
of Fruitafossor made many palaeontologists sit up
and pay attention,
because here was a digging mammal that existed one hundred million
years before the previously known Cenozoic ancestors of today’s
mammalian diggers. Although it appears that Fruitafossor
related to any of today’s existing mammals, it employed its powerful
forearms, which have earned it the nickname 'Popeye' due to their
oversized resemblance to the cartoon characters forearm, to dig for
the termites that lived towards the end of the Jurassic. Not only
could Fruitafossor have used its forearms and claws
to break into
termite nests, it has also been suggested that it could dig itself
burrows for protection from hunters.
The teeth of Fruitafossor are sharp and lack enamel suggesting that they were lost and replaced as they wore out. Animals that eat termites usually do not have to do any chewing, so enamel is not required to protect the teeth for this process. More importantly though, the same type of teeth are found in mammals that primarily feed on termites today, indicating that because Fruitafossor was not related to them, the evolutionary adaptations suited for eating termites happened more than once.
The species name F. windscheffeli is in honour of Wally Windscheffeli, a Carnegie museum volunteer who discovered the Fruitafosser remains.
- A Late Jurassic digging mammal and early mammalian diversification. - Science 308:103-107. - Z.-X. Luo & J. R. Wible - 2005.