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Early meat-eater may have led to larger plant-eaters

The 300-million-year-old meat-eating Eocasea martini (full animal in this illustration) may have made it possible for larger plant-eaters such as Cotylorhynchus (illustrated footprint shown) to exist.

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The newly identified Eocasea martini didn’t inspire the adult beverage that shares its name, but the small barrel-bodied creature may have set the stage for later, much larger animals to become plant-eaters.

A roughly 300 million-year-old fossil of E. martini found in Kansas suggests that the early proto-mammal munched on meat. But species similar in body structure that came after E. martini were vegetarians, which could mean that the later plant-lovers evolved from the smaller, earlier meat-eaters of the group, researchers report April 15 in PLOS ONE.     

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