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A Strange World

Get ready to travel back in time. Your voyage will take you to a part of eastern Asia as it looked 130 million years ago. At the time, this region--now in the Chinese province of Liaoning--was warm and dry. The land was covered by forests and lakes rich with plant and animal life, although from time to time, volcanic eruptions darkened the sky and stilled everything with a blanket of ash.

Some of the plants and animals of the Liaoning forest will seem familiar. Pine trees line the shores of the lake. Frogs, turtles and fish look almost the same as they do today. But much is different here. Long-extinct dinosaurs share the landscape with unusual plants, large insects and unfamiliar mammals. Primitive birds fly overhead, while other feathered dinosaurs climb the trees. A walk through the Liaoning forest offers intriguing clues to how the ancient world became modern.

Scurrying beneath the feet of large dinosaurs, early mammals were often quite small. This shrewlike mammal from Liaoning, China, named Eomaia ("ee-oh-MY-ah"), is considered to be a close relative of all living placental mammals, which give birth to live young. Other mammals found at Liaoning were the size of dogs and preyed on dinosaurs.

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