back to article Our oldest mammalian ancestor named after British pub landlord

Researchers have discovered fossils of our oldest mammalian ancestors yet found – along the coastline of Dorset in southeast England. The two new species have been named Durlstotherium newmani, after pub owner Charlie Newman, once dubbed a living treasure; and Dulstodon ensomi, after Paul Ensom, a paleontologist. Both blokes …

  1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    I'm fairly sure this counts as "interesting"

    "Fortune favours the prepared mind" as Pasteur put it.

    IOW many might have seen them already, but only he saw what they were.

    This sounds like the raw material for a 1st Class Degree, provided the write up is dots all the i's and crosses all the t's of course.

  2. Francis Boyle Silver badge

    "the early Jurassic period in the Cretaceous era"

    I'm no paleontologist but to I now enough about the subject to be completely baffled by this.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: "the early Jurassic period in the Cretaceous era"

      Looks like an editor somewhere made a bit of an error in translation. What we call "the late Jurassic" and "the early Cretaceous" share at least a few weeks right around 145 MYA. The teeth[0] were found in this transition zone.

      [0] Why am I suddenly reminded of Dave Allen mocking Ian Paisley?

      1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

        Re: "the early Jurassic period in the Cretaceous era"


        (One of his best.)

  3. Timmy B Silver badge

    With profound apologies to Latin scholars (I used google translate)

    Surely it should be "specialis disputatio"

    or SPG for short - small rat like mammal

    it's obvious.

    1. 's water music Silver badge

      Re: With profound apologies to Latin scholars (I used google translate)

      I think SPG is a stupid name for a hamster. Have you considered Cliff

    2. BebopWeBop Silver badge

      Re: With profound apologies to Latin scholars (I used google translate)

      I'll buy that the SPG were probably mammals - but from my memory, large aggressive ones (for 'umans anyway) - who came tooled up (with obvious lack of any convictions) obligatory NTNON link - (punchline about 3 minutes in)

  4. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge

    Trigger for an extinction event?

    "Get aht of ma puuuub!"

  5. frank ly Silver badge


    I'd describe Dorset as being on the south coast or slightly south west.

    1. SkippyBing Silver badge

      Re: Dorset

      It's definitely not South East, for starters I can afford to live there.

  6. Milton Silver badge

    In other news ...

    In other news, a hitherto unsuspected evolutionary throwback was discovered on the Brexitic Cliffs of Dover. Scientists are baffled by the vaguely burger-patty-shaped, primitive single-celled organism which consists almost entirely of carbohydrates and fat held together by gristle, and which genetic analysis suggests is of British origin, finding the European ecosystem too hostile to bear as it thrives in an atmosphere of used cooking fat and stale urine.

    The specimen, preserved in cheap alcohol, following recent conventions has been named Martinus Imbecilicus Wetherspooni.

  7. phuzz Silver badge

    Do you think the landlord of my local would let me off my bar tab if I named a species after them?

    Even if it was an extinct rat?

  8. stu 4


    Ah yes, one of the many 'ologys' that bear only a passing sniff of any rigorous scientific method.

    2 teeth, and a whole animal and back story are concocted.

    egyptology, scientology... it's a bit like when a country calls themselves a democracy or a republic - you know the last thing they are is democratic or a republic...

    the incredible face reconstructions they do are another favourite - this is what he looked like... ok.. where's the one you did of the skull of the guy who died last year, whom we have photographs of... and the 100 other samples which would form the basis of the proper double blind experiments that shows your reconstruction to not just be fanciful unscientific pish ?

    Note: I am not some creationist. dinos existed, the earth is 4.5 billion years old. I just wish we could get rid of these unscientific disciplines or bring them into the fold of proper science (i.e. physics/maths end of frankly).

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: palaeontology

      I thought that also... all that detail from just 2 teeth. Amazing work isn't it?

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: palaeontology

      Scientology - Yup, no quibble with dissing that. It's a cult invented by a Sci-fi author. The name is about as close to being an -ology as it gets.

      Egyptology - Funny you should mention that and contrast it to physics. Someone who first established the wave theory of light by demonstrating interference, first defined energy as a term in physics; would you say he was a physicist? Meet Thomas Young, "the last man to know everything", physicist, polymath - and Egyptologist. Actually, once a bi-lingual, tri-script inscription was found and it was realised the language had survived in the form of Coptic the study of ancient Egypt was placed on a fairly sound footing. You might wonder why anyone should bother but then I suppose a lot of people will, over the years, have wondered why anyone bothered with some of the more arcane areas of mathematics.

      Palaeontology and teeth - You may have led a sheltered life and not realised this but over the years zoologists have looked at a vast array of animal species in minute detail. As a consequence they have a reasonable competence in recognising mammalian teeth when they see them. They also know - and this might come as a surprise to you - that there's an overall plan to mammalian dentition. So they can recognise what part of the jaw a tooth comes from.

      They can also recognise when a tooth comes from a full-grown individual as opposed to an infant and, taking that together with their knowledge of that overall plan, they can work out that small teeth come from an animal with a small jaw (you don't get mammals having indeterminate numbers of small teeth in a large jaw). If the jaw is small it can't feed a large body so they know they're looking at a species where the adult size is small.

      One of the things they also know about mammals is that they need to keep the body temperature fairly high to be active. If an animal is small it has a high surface to volume ratio so it loses heat rapidly (this is almost like a real science, say physics, isn't it). To minimise heat loss it would need some form of insulation. Given that it's a mammal this is more likely to be made out of hair rather than feathers so it's a reasonable deduction that it's a furry creature.

      What else was there? Oh, yes, its diet. Again, that comes from looking at the teeth of a lot of different species and comparing them with their diets. After a while they get to recognise the adaptations that go with different sorts of diet.

      Over the years zoologists have gained a lot of experience with looking at a new species and being able to predict aspects of its life-style. Such predictions can be checked. Do they have to be able to check predictions made on the basis of fossil evidence? If you're given the fact that a triangle has sides of ration 3:4:5 do you have to go through Pythagoras' theorem from scratch to know there's a right angle in there?

      TL;DR Just because you don't have the background knowledge doesn't mean that nobody else does. Or, to put it another way, whatever your bag is there's a reasonable probability that it's something I don't know in detail so, on your view, if I don't know what you're talking about neither do you.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: palaeontology

        Couple of things. All of that extension and abstraction they do with their observations of teeth has quite a large margin of error and is probably caveated heavily with "would likely" and "is likely to have" etc.


        If the jaw is small it can't feed a large body so they know they're looking at a species where the adult size is small.

        Well, you can likely say creature X most resembles creature Y that we know about and is therefore likely to have the following traits. However, not having the jaw, skull etc or actually having observed the creature you cannot say for certain that it could not unlock its jaw and eat like a Burmese Python were it a carnivore. Just that it most likely didn't.

        There are areas of science to which far too much certainty is alluded to, often by people with a thin grasp of probability, statistics, and/or potentially their own subject. I know this as I have a friend who is an expert in the Math/Stats field who consults to such people and educates them on the errors of their ways. You'd be surprised what even some of the leading lights in these fields do.

  9. HmmmYes Silver badge

    Hmm, Id like to name a new species of human after the bloke who served me in a pub last week:

    Homo BeardyCuntus.

  10. Scroticus Canis

    Check the picture.

    Isn't it amazing how two teeth (found in a geographically mislocated area from a non-existent period of time) can tell you if the rat-thing had a furry or smooth tail.

    Yet another fine article.

  11. Blofeld's Cat

    Rats ...

    '... Smith found not one but two “remarkable teeth never before seen from rocks this age.”

    “I was asked to look at them and give an opinion and even at first glance my jaw dropped! ...'

    That sounds like some very careless handling of the specimen.

    It also appears there is more truth than I realised, in the saying;

    "You may be winning the rat-race, but you're still a rat".

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