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Temporal range: Late Cretaceous, 70.6–65.5Ma
|A cast of the first Didelphodon mandible to be discovered still containing teeth, now located in the permanent collection of The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis|
|Didelphodon vorax Marsh, 1889
Although perhaps little larger than a Virginia Opossum, it was one of the largest mammals of the Mesozoic. The teeth have specialized bladelike cusps and carnassial notches, indicating that the animal was a predator; the jaws are short and massive and bear enormous, bulbous premolar teeth which appear to have been used for crushing.
Fossil evidence suggests Didelphodon was a small predator, perhaps filling the niche that foxes do today. The other predators of its time may have driven it underground, like a badger. Its build would certainly sustain such an existence. Heavy wear on the teeth suggests a highly specialized diet.
Three species are known: Didelphodon vorax, D. padanicus, and D. coyi. A specimen was discovered in 2001, Harding County, South Dakota. Didelphodon is known from the Hell Creek Formation of Montana, the Lance Formation of Wyoming, and the Scollard Formation of Alberta, where it is one of the most abundant mammals. The genus appears to descend from the Campanian Eodelphis, and in particular appears to be related to Eodelphis cutleri.
In popular culture
Didelphodon was featured in a minor role in Walking with Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Planet. In Walking with Dinosaurs, one was eaten by an angry Tyrannosaurus while raiding a nest, and two later fought over a tyrannosaur egg from the same nest. One was also shown feasting on the remains of a young Torosaurus, highlighting how the mammals continue to thrive while the dinosaurs face their demise.
- Clemens, W. A., Jr. (1979). Marsupialia. Mesozoic mammals: the first two-thirds of mammalian history. J. A. Lilligraven, Kielan-Jaworowska and W. A. Clemens, Jr. Berkeley, University of California Press: 192-220.
- Cifelli, R. L., Z.-X. Luo, et al. (2004). Mammals from the Age of Dinosaurs: Origins, Evolution and Structure. New York, Columbia University Press.
- BBC Online: Science & Nature: Prehistoric Life
- Fox, R. C., & Naylor, B. G. (1986). A new species of Didelphodon Marsh (Marsupialia) from the Upper Cretaceous of Alberta, Canada: paleobiology and phylogeny. Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie Abhandlungen, 172, 357-380.
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