It's not exactly teenage wildlife, but it's close.

Brasilestes stardusti, named by paleontologist Mariela Castro and colleagues, isn't known from very much skeletal material. The fossil at the center of the species' description is only a single tooth - a premolar from the right side of the lower jaw. Still, given that prehistoric mammals are often tracked by the topography of their teeth, Castro and coauthors were able to determine that this 87 million-year-old fossil stood out from other beasts of its time.

For one thing, Brasilestes was relatively large for a mammal in the Age of Dinosaurs. Based on comparisons with far more complete mammals, Castro and colleagues expect that Brasilestes was comparable in size to an opossum. And in terms of family ties, Brasilestes appears to have been a tribosphenidan - a group of mammals that, until recently, was thought to have only existed in the northern hemisphere and is placed upon the long evolutionary stem that includes the ancestors of today's marsupial and placental mammals. The discovery of this beast in Brazil helps pinpoint another important spot on the prehistoric map of how mammals flourished in the Mesozoic world.

The specifics of what Brasilestes looked like, how it lived, and its closer evolutionary relationships will have to wait for more fossil material. But in that sense, the mammal is much like its rock star namesake. David Bowie always left fans wanting more.

Name: Brasilestes stardusti

Meaning: Brasilestes means "Brazil robber," and stardusti is a tribute to David Bowie stage persona Ziggy Stardust. 

Age: Cretaceous, about 87 million years old.

Where in the world?: São Paulo, Brazil.

What sort of organism?: A mammal belonging to a group called tribosphenids.

How much of the organism’s is known?: A premolar from the right half of the lower jaw.


Castro, M., Goin, F., Ortiz-Jaureguizar, E., Vieytes, E., Tsukui, K., Ramezani, J., Batezelli, A., Marsola, J., Langer, M. 2018. A Late Cretaceous mammal from Brazil and the first radioisotopic age for the Bauru Group. Royal Society Open Science. doi: 10.1098/rsos.180482

More Paleo Profiles: 

The Light-Footed Lizard
The Maoming Cat
Knight’s Egyptian Bat
The La Luna Snake
The Rio do Rasto Tooth
Bob Weir's Otter
Egypt's Canine Beast
The Vastan Mine Tapir
Pangu's Wing
The Dawn Megamouth
The Genga Lizard
The Micro Lion
The Mystery Titanosaur
The Echo Hunter
The Lo Hueco Titan
The Three-Branched Cicada
The Monster of Minden
The Pig-Footed Bandicoot
Hayden's Rattlesnake Demon
The Evasive Ostrich Seer
The Paradoxical Mega Shark
The Tiny Beardogs
The Armored Fish King
North America's Pangolin
The Invisible-Tusked Elephant
The Mud Dragon
The Spike-Toothed Salmon
The Dream Coast Crocodile
Buriol's Robber
Ozimek's Flyer
The Northern Naustoceratopsian
The High Arctic Flyer
The Tomatillo From the End of the World
The Short-Faced Hyena
The Mighty Traveler from Egg Mountain
Keilhau's Ichthyosaur
Mexico's Ancient Horned Face
Mauricio Fernández's Plesiosaur
New Zealand's Giant Dawn Penguin
The Orange Sea Lion
Mongolia's Ginkgo Cousin
The Geni River Frog
Isabel Berry's Dinosaur
The Whale Caiman
The Moab Lizard
Yang Zhongjian's Lizard
The Little Anubis
The Shuangbai Lizard
The Wyvern Dinosaur
The "Need Helmet" Dinosaur
The Jianianhua Dragon
The Liaoning Hunter
The Dalian Lizard
Crompton's Aleodon
Jenkins' Amphibian Serpent From the Chinle
The Large Ancestor Lizard
The Crown Tooth
Currie's Alberta Hunter
The Elephant Bird Mimic
The Crested Thief
The Hiding Hunter
The Horned Lizard
The Silk Bird
The Sieve-Toothed Plesiosaur
The Defenseless Snout
Burian's Lizard
The Small Whaitsiid
The Beautiful Bird
The Fierce Cat
The Older One From Melksham
The King of the Miocene Iberian Giraffes
Miera's Lizard
The Traveling Sloth
The Sand Whale
Shouten's Marsupial Lion
The Rhaetian Lizard
The Mountain Dolphin
The Bryant's Shark
The Rainbow Dinosaur
Kootenay Bristle Worm
The Masaoura Lizard
The Chimera Spider
The Chad Cat
The Jinyun Shield
The Fish From China
The Sobrarbe Siren
The Shortened Face
The Climbing Dwarf
Martin's Sea Turtle
The Nonsense Beetle