New Mammal Named After Chocolate Giant

Hillary Mayell
for National Geographic News
December 30, 2005

A lost bet and a sweet tooth led to the announcement this week of a new mammal named after a chocolate brand.

Dubbed Kryoryctes cadburyi—as in Cadbury chocolate—the dinosaur-era mammal was roughly the size of a large cat, covered with quills, and toothless.

A distant relative of today's spiny anteater, the species lived about 106 million years ago alongside dinosaurs in what is now Australia.

The tale of how the low-slung creature came to be named after a candy company, however, begins about ten years ago in a rocky cove some 140 miles (220 kilometers) southwest of Melbourne.

Searching for a Mammal Among Dinosaurs

Tom Rich, now curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Museum Victoria in Melbourne, Australia, led a dig at Dinosaur Cove from 1984 to 1994. As its name implies, the seaside site had been a dinosaur hangout more than a hundred million years ago.

The crew at Dinosaur Cove expected to find dino fossils, but the crown jewel would be a mammal bone—evidence of mammals living among dinosaurs in Australia is fairly rare.

Helen Wilson, then a student at Australia's Monash University, was one of the bone diggers in the summer of 1987.

"The food at the dig was terrible, and all of us students lived on chocolate," Wilson said. "I asked Tom what we'd get if we found a dinosaur jaw, and he said he'd give me a kilo [2.2 pounds] of chocolate"—which she went on to win and consume almost single-handedly.

If a dinosaur jaw was worth two pounds of chocolate, what would a mammal specimen merit?

"For Tom, a mammal bone was the holy grail," Wilson said.

Quite certain that a mammal bone wouldn't be found, Rich promised a cubic meter [35 cubic feet, or about a ton] of chocolate to anyone who came up with a specimen.

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