Millions of years after dinosaurs became extinct mammals began their ascent to the top of the food chain. Much of that time is a mystery, but Brandon researcher Dr. David Greenwood has helped to make it a little clearer.

Greenwood uncovered prehistoric mammals who roamed North America 52 million years ago. He was leading a fossil dig in Driftwood Canyon Provincial Park near Smithers, B.C.

One of the mammals is an early relative of the hedgehog. It was a little smaller than a modern mouse. The other is an ancient relative of the tapir. It was the size of a large dog.

The two species were unknown to science until Greenwood discovered them. Greenwood said we knew about what kind of plants and fish were around but not mammals.

“It gives us a better, more full picture of the environment,” said Greenwood.

Few fossil mammals from this geological age have been described before in Canada.

The early mammals lived in a time of global warming. Greenwood said their fossils have much to teach us about how the world coped with a problem we are dealing with today.