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Mammals started flying when birds did

The first gliding mammal winged through forests at least 70 million years earlier than scientists had previously presumed, a new fossil shows. The specimen dates from about 150 million years ago, during the time when birds were developing flight.

"This changes our view about the early evolution of mammals," says Jin Meng of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Scientists had proposed that mammals from that period "lived in the shadow of dinosaurs and were relatively primitive," Meng says. He and his colleagues report the finding in the Dec. 14 Nature.

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