Ancient rat named after Dorset pub landlord

A recently discovered rodent that lived 145 million years ago, and is thought to be mankind’s oldest mammal ancestor, has been named after a pub landlord.

The ancient rat, which lived 145 million years ago, has been named ‘Durlstotherim newmani’ after pub landlord Charlie Newman

The remains of the little nocturnal mammal, which lived 145million years ago, were excavated from the Jurassic Coast in Dorset by paleontologists from the University of Portsmouth, along with pub landlord Charlie Newman.

The fossil hunter is also the landlord of the Square and Compass pub in Worth Matravers, which is known for its micro fossil museum attached to the pub and was established by Newman.

The ancient rat, which lived 145 million years ago, has been named ‘Durlstotherim newmani’ after Newman. 

According to scientists at the University of Portsmouth, the animal is the earliest in a line that eventually leads to humans, as well as branching off along the way to evolve into creatures as diverse as blue whales and pigmy shrews.

The new species was identified from a handful of fossilised teeth recovered from rocks exposed in cliffs near Swanage by Portsmouth University undergraduate Grant Smith earlier this year, and identified by Dr Steve Sweetman, a research fellow at the university.

“Grant was sifting through small samples of earliest Cretaceous rocks collected on the coast of Dorset as part of his undergraduate dissertation project in the hope of finding some interesting remains,” said Dr Sweetman.

“Quite unexpectedly he found not one but two quite remarkable teeth of a type never before seen from rocks of this age. I was asked to look at them and give an opinion and even at first glance my jaw dropped.

“The teeth are of a type so highly evolved that I realised straight away I was looking at remains of early Cretaceous mammals that more closely resembled those that lived during the latest Cretaceous some 60million years later in geological history.

“The specimen is named after a pub landlord because he is a keen amateur paleontologist and has a small museum in his pub. He helped us collect samples and was otherwise very helpful and hospitable.”

Mr Newman previously made headlines in 2015 when he built his own 12ft-high Stonehenge in a field he owns using 35 tonnes of timber, although he was later ordered to tear it down by Purbeck District Council.

The findings were published in the journal, Acta Palaeontologica Polonica.

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