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.

Reference:

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

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