Einstein Science Reporting for Kids
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American Association for the Advancement of Science

A beaver buddy for the dinosaurs?

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Wouldn't it be cool to go back in time and see what things looked like 164 million years ago? Those were the days of the dinosaurs, which is why scientists digging in China were so surprised when they found a new animal fossil from that time that looks a lot like a beaver!

In the 24 February 2006 issue of the journal Science, Qiang Ji of Nanjing University in China and his fellow scientists talk about the strange fossil they found and what it might tell us about the animals that hung out with some dinosaurs. Fossils are the leftover bits of animals that lived millions of years ago. Most of the time, bones are the part of an animal that becomes a fossil after being buried in the ground.

After studying the new Chinese fossil, the scientists think that the animal had a wide flat tail with scales, webbed feet and sharp pointy teeth that would have been good for eating fish. The animal's arms and legs look like the arms and legs on good swimmers like platypuses and beavers. And it's a really nice fossil because you can even see little marks where the animal's fur would have been, the scientists say.

All these things make the scientists think the animal looked and acted a lot like beavers do today. Scientists don't know a lot about the other animals that lived at the same time as the dinosaurs, but they think that most of them were small and looked a lot like scurrying or climbing mice. The new fossil is kind of a surprise. It means that the dinosaurs' furry friends might have been doing lots of different things a long time ago.