Many of the mammals that emerged right after the non-avian dinosaur extinction were hearty creatures, as exemplified by Ernanodon, a beast described in the latest issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
The skeleton that is the focus of the study is nearly complete, revealing how this early mammal looked in the flesh and lived.
"Ernanodon was a badger-sized, rather chunky mammal with a short square skull, extremely reduced dentition and big claws on the forelimbs," lead author Peter Kondrashov told Discovery News.
"The structure of the forelimb indicates that this animal was doing a lot of digging, probably mostly in the search of food," added Kondrashov, who is an associate professor and chair of the Anatomy Department at the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine.
He and colleague Alexandre Agadjanian analyzed the skeleton, which dates to the Late Paleocene (60 to 55 million years ago). This Ernanodon individual lived in Mongolia. Other, less complete, remains were previously found in China.