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Press Conference at BMNH on the Discovery of Juramaia sinensis

published:2011-08-31

On the morning of August 25, BMNH and ChineseAcademyof Geological Sciences held a press conference on the discovery of Juramaia sinensis. The Jurassic fossil was studied by a team comprising Chinese and American scientists, including Dr. Zhe-Xi Luo of Carnegie Museum of Natural History (Pittsburgh,USA), Drs. Qiang Ji and Chong-Xi Yuan from Institute of Geology, Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences (Beijing), and Dr. Qing-Jin Meng from the Beijing Museum of Natural History.  The description and analysis was published in the prestigious journal Nature.

Discovered in the 160-million-year-old Tiaojishan Formation of Jianchang County, Liaoning Province ofChina, the remarkably well-preserved fossil was named Juramaia sinensis, or the “Jurassic mother fromChina.” This fossil represents the earliest-known fossil of the eutherian-placental lineage.  It shows that a new milestone in mammal evolution that was reached 35 million years earlier than the previous Cretaceous record.  This new discovery fills an important gap in the fossil record and helps to calibrate modern, DNA-based methods of dating the mammalian evolution. The age of Juramaia helps to establish the date when eutherian mammals diverged from other mammals: metatherians (whose descendants include marsupials such as kangaroos) and monotremes (such as the platypus).

The holotype specimen of Juramaia sinensis was found in 2009 by Dr. Qiang J, and it is kept in the Beijing Museum of Natural History.  The research was supported by the 973 Project of Ministry of Science and Technology of China, National Natural Sciences Foundation of China, Beijing Institute of Science and Technology (BJAST) Innovation Team Program, China Geological Survey, and National Science Foundation of USA.

In recent years, Beijing Museum of Natural History has shifted its research focus and defined its mission in natural history museum research as ‘on the basis of collection enrichment to build cooperative bases with fossil quarries and specimen suppliers, to concentrate its effort on key study areas, to cooperate with renowned domestic and foreign universities, academies, museums and scientists, and to combine biology with museology’ and has made notable achievements.  This constitutes another significant collection and research feat after the March 2010 Science paper resulting from a cooperative project withYaleUniversity.

Eleven influential media sent reporters to the press conference.



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