Extinct Mammal Fed Like a Woodpecker

GAINESVILLE, Fla., Oct. 11 (UPI) — An extinct mammal that looked like a squirrel and located its food by tapping on trees with odd elongated fingers, has been described by U.S researchers.

University of Florida researchers used high-resolution CT scans to examine a fossil of the creature, Labidolemur kayi, a member of the Apatemyidae family that has puzzled scientists for centuries because of its strange physical characteristics, a university release said.

With upper front teeth shaped like a can opener and two unusually long fingers, apatemyids have been likened to a variety of animals from opossums to woodpeckers.

“There are only a few examples in the history of mammals where you get such an incredibly odd ecological adaptation,” says Jonathan Bloch, a curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus.

The creature used percussive foraging, or tapping on trees, to locate insects in the manner of a woodpecker, he said.

No more than a foot tall, it was capable of jumping between trees with its exceptionally long fingers similar to the aye-aye, a lemur native to Madagascar, Bloch said.

Apatemyids lived in Europe and North America.

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