03/16/2012 01:06 pm ET Updated May 15, 2012

During Demise Of Dinosaurs, Early Mammals Had Reason To Smile (VIDEO)

Dr. Gregory P. Wilson is an Adjunct Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology and Assistant Professor of Biology at the Burke Museum of the University of Washington. He is also the lead author of a study that was published in Nature only two days ago, titled Adaptive Radiation of Multituberculate Mammals Before the Extinction of Dinosaurs.

Wilson's findings challenge a long-held notion that the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) extinction event was the launchpad for mammalian evolution into a diverse and proliferative group. Because of the shape of their teeth, multituberculates (the proto-mammals Wilson and his colleagues studied) were able to adapt to a diet of newly evolved angiosperms, or flowering plants, that would later survive the K-T event. So although humans never walked with dinosaurs (you hear that, Santorum?), some of our earliest ancestors seem to have done so, coming out on the other side of one of the most famous catastrophes in the history of the planet. And there's good reason to think that they survived because of their amazing teeth. For more information, I Skyped with Wilson about his study. Click on the video above/see the transcript below, and don't forget to leave a comment. Talk nerdy to me!


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