Tiny hedgehog fossil could answer climate-change questions
What could make a hedgehog, one of the cutest animals known to man, even cuter? Imagine one the size of your thumb.
A team of scientists led by researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder turned up the 52-million-year-old fossil remains of an ancient hedgehog species in British Columbia.
Researchers have named it Silvacola acares, which adorably translates to "Tiny forest dweller."
It's hard to say exactly what Silvacola looked like, but it would've been about a fourth the size of the African pygmy hedgehog, which are popularly kept as pets.
Researchers also uncovered fossils of a miniature tapir, belonging to the extinct genus Heptodon.
Tapirs are occasionally adorable pig-sized mammals with trunks that can be found in the jungles of South America and Southeast Asia.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the hedgehog and the tapir were the first mammal fossils ever to be discovered at the site, which has yielded insect and plant fossils in the past.
Both would have lived in an upland rainforest in Canada, similar to those found in the Pacific Northwest.
The researchers say the Eocene period in which the two species lived -- some 13 million years after the dinosaurs died out -- was one of the warmest in the history of the planet, and studying it could help scientists understand how the world may change as the global climate warms.
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