12 September 2017
The Literary Accomplishments of Small Mammals
Castorocauda is one of the better preserved mammalian specimens of the fossil record. Not simply of the Jurassic fossil record, but the entire mammalian fossil record. There are a number of younger finds that are wonderfully preserved for various reasons that include age, lagerstätten preservation (tar pits and tundra finds included), and occasionally luck. Regardless, the 2004 fossil find of Castorocauda has given mammalian paleontologists a lot to study and that has given us a lot that we are able to read. Ji, et al. 2006 introduces the approximately 425 mm mammal to the world and is openly published on Science's website, allowing everyone to read it without downloading a PDF or paying for the full article. Pictures of the fossil show that the mammal was preserved in a slab of rock with only small portions of the hindlimb, torso, and neck absent from the fossil. Science also hosts an article on mammalian brains (Rowe, et al. 2011) that mentions Castorocauda and discusses the animal's integument and subsequent meaning of these hairs in relation to brain development and sensory inputs. The majority of other papers that mention Castorocauda are likewise filled with very short single paragraph or less mentions of the animal to show one point or a snapshot in the development of a system. The major paper that we have for Castorocauda, however, is extensive and describes the animal and its functional morphology in high levels of detail.