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03/01/2013

#Nameyourancestor: give the shrew that gave rise to humans a name

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An artist's rendering of the hypothetical ancestor of placental mammals, the group of mammals that includes humans, dogs, whales, and many other animals. (Courtesy Carl Buell)

In a major study published last month, scientists came up with a creature they believe was the evolutionary precursor of all placental mammals -- the biggest group of mammals, and the one that includes humans, horses, whales, bats, and many more.

But because the bug-eating, shrew-like creature is a hypothetical computer simulation, rather than found via fossil specimen, it can't receive a scientific name. And -- as this writer can say from experience -- "earliest common placental mammal ancestor" doesn't really dance off the tongue.

So here's your chance to name grandaddy shrew.

The American Museum of Natural History, whose scientists led the project, and Radiolab, a science radio show, have teamed up to run a naming drive for this important little guy.

They're asking readers and listeners to tweet their naming suggestions to @Radiolab or @AMNH with the hashtag #nameyourancestor, or email them into comments@amnh.org. (Include us with your suggestions and we'll retweet the ones we like too -- @Star_foreign and @katecallen).

The deadline for submissions is March 5. Here are some of our favourites so far:

 




Kate Allen is the Star's science and technology reporter. Find her on Twitter at @katecallen.

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