The Making of the Mammalian Nose

As far as anatomical ventilation systems go, our noses are pretty impressive. Scrolled sheets of bone called turbinates can take much of the credit for that. Covered in soft tissue called conchae, these delicate structures not only warm and humidify incoming air, but, deep in the nasal cavity, house specialized tissue that aids our sense of smell. And thanks to the exquisite preservation of a 227 million year old protomammal, paleontologists are starting to understand when and how these marvelous little bones evolved.

The skull, found in the Triassic rock of Brazil, belonged to a small, weaselish animal named Brasilitherium. This was not a mammal. Not quite. Brasilitherium was ...

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