The Rise of Mammals

Part of the Fighting Dinos exhibition.

The exhibition's sixth section focused on the evolution of mammals, illustrating the evolution that led to the great diversity of modern mammals. This exhibition showcased the finest Late Cretaceous mammal specimens found in the world, remarkably preserved in the Gobi.

Dinosaurs and mammals appeared on Earth at roughly the same time, about 225 million years ago, but they followed very different evolutionary paths. Dinosaurs quickly assumed a wide range of forms, from small, swift carnivores to massive, armored plant eaters. Mammals evolved slowly. 80 million years ago, the mammals that lived in the region now known as the Gobi Desert were land dwellers, none larger than a gopher. It was not until after the end of the Cretaceous Period, when most dinosaurs disappeared, that mammals flourished and gave rise to today's vast array of species as diverse as dolphins, bats, and elephants.