Scientists unearth the fossil of a teeny-tiny hedgehog

Jul 10, 2014

By Deborah Netburn

Researchers in British Columbia have unearthed a 52 million year old fossil of the smallest hedgehog known to science.

The animal was fully grown when it died, and just two inches long — about the length of your thumb. The research team named it Silvacola acares, which means “tiny forest dweller.”

This little guy was so eensy-weensy that that his back molars were just 1 millimeter in length. His bones were so delicate that the researchers were worried his fossil would break apart if they tried to get it out of the rock.

Instead, they decided to leave the fossilized parts of the animal’s skull embedded in the rock and do a micro-CT scan on it to figure out exactly what mammal they were looking at.

“I compared the scan of his molars to hundreds of little, tiny teeth,” said Jaelyn Eberle, who studies ancient mammals at the University of Colorado at Boulder. “But before too long I realized there isn’t anything that looks exactly like this guy’s teeth.”

Finally she realized she had not just a new species, but a new genus on her hands. Eberle is the lead author of a paper describing the hedgehog, as well as a tapir-like animal that was also the found at the site, that was published Tuesday in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Unfortunately, we can only get to know this mini-hedgehog through fossils. Silvacola acares lived during the early Eocene era, when the Earth was the warmest it has been since the time of the dinosaurs.

6 comments on “Scientists unearth the fossil of a teeny-tiny hedgehog

  • baby-talk

    @ article’s end,

    For more amazing (and cute!) science news, follow me @

    Original source can be found at ‘Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology’ June issue.

    Report abuse

  • I haven’t delved deeper, but I guess this wording was used as a hook to draw in someone who would bypass a science article under normal conditions?
    ( I’ll admit to being a bit pedantic at times).

    Report abuse

  • used as a hook

    I think the best example (from this site), was a headline something to the effect of ‘Long Snake Found in Hot, Steamy Jungle’. lol

    Report abuse

  • What a wonderful little critter. It’s amazing that anyone could recognize such a tiny fossil, especially given that they were looking for something else at the time.

    Report abuse

Leave a Reply

View our comment policy.