Oldest marsupial lived in Chinese trees, according to a report in Science, vol 302, p1934, 12 December 2003. Palaeontologists in China have found a well preserved mouse sized fossil they believe to be the world’s oldest marsupial, the group of mammals that includes kangaroos and koalas. The fossil is dated at 125 million years old, putting it into the “early Cretaceous” period a period in the evolutionary timetable associated with carnivorous dinosaurs like T. rex. The fossil marsupial had feet well designed for living in trees and Zhe-Xi Luo, one of the scientists who studied the fossil, suggested that early mammals took to living in trees to avoid being eaten by dinosaurs. Last year Luo and colleagues found the world’s oldest placental mammal fossil in the same quarry as the marsupial, and claimed this showed that the split between placental mammals and marsupials took place over 50 million years earlier than previously believed. The scientists also claim their find proves marsupials evolved in Asia.

Editorial Comment: The fact that oldest claimed fossils of marsupials and placental mammals were found in the same place and were distinctively different is good evidence they have always been different kinds, and provides no evidence for the theory that one evolved into the other. The additional fact that the fossil marsupial was found in China, not Australia, also indicates that the place animals live now, is not necessarily where they originated, i.e. they are not “indigenous” to the place they live now, a factor green politics conveniently ignores. (Ref. marsupial, mammal, fossil)