STL Science Center

STL Science Center

05 December 2014

Breathing and Chewing

Few people stop and marvel at the wonder of being able to chew and breathe at the same time. The ability to breathe while holding food or water in the mouth has evolved a few times in the history of life and each time it has been a remarkable innovation in the line of animals in which it evolved. One of the earliest transitional near-mammals that has been found with the ability to breathe and chew was the Cynodontid Thrinaxodon. Thrinaxodon possessed a primitive secondary palate making this possible. A single species is recognized in the genus: Thrinaxodon liorhinus. This small near-mammal also possessed two small tusk-like teeth and is thought to have lived in riverbank burrows. At under 0.61 meters (2 feet) in length, this small animal would run and hide, use its long whiskers, and come out after dark under the feet of the earliest dinosaurs. These little animals were furry and weasel-like, but they were definitely wonderfully interesting little animals.
©Nobu Tamura

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