Palaeontologists from the University of Zurich have “rediscovered” a skull bone that was thought to have been lost during the course of evolution for many mammals.
Mammals’ skulls are composed of around 20 bones — fewer than those of fish, reptiles and birds. This is because when mammals evolved from reptile-like vertebrates 320 million years ago, the skull structure simplified. Some bones were lost in the process, particularly some of the skull roof bones. The interparietal is one such bone, but it has perplexed researchers since it had survived in some mammals, such as horses and cats (and 2.8 percent of humans) but not in others.
The interparietal is clearly discernible in the embryo, but fuses with other bones beyond recognition shortly afterwards. As a result it’s often been missed. However, new imaging techniques have been able to detect its presence in all mammals.