Ptilodus (Greek for "soft-haired"); pronounced TIE-low-duss
Woodlands of North America
Paleocene (65-55 million years ago)
Size and Weight:
Up to 18 inches long and a few pounds
Small size; flexible toes; prehensile tail
Named after the characteristic cusps, or "tubercules," of their teeth, the "multituberculates" were an extensive family of rodent-like mammals that originated in the early Jurassic period and persisted in the northern hemisphere until about 35 million years ago. Ptilodus was a typical member of this breed, a small, tree-dwelling mammal of the Paleocene epoch (right after the extinction of the dinosaurs) that wasn't much different from its Mesozoic ancestors. To judge by its prehensile tail, grasping claws and flexible feet and legs, Ptilodus made its living much like a modern squirrel, scampering up and down trees in search of tasty fruits, nuts and bugs. This prehistoric mammal is represented by seven species, which ranged all across the North American continent.