Mammals appeared first in the late Triassic, at about the same time as dinosaurs. Throughout the Mesozoic, most mammals were small, fed on insects and lead a nocturnal life, whereas dinosaurs were the dominant forms of life on land. After the abrupt changes about 65 million years ago, when dinosaurs disappeared with the exception of their descendants, the birds, the world was practically without larger sized terrestrial animals. This unique situation was the starting point for the great evolutionary success of the mammals. Only ten million years later, at the end of the Palaeocene, they had occupied a large part of the vacant ecological niches, often competing with giant carnivorous birds, especially in South America. By this time, the landscape was teeming with small insectivorous and rodent-like mammals, medium sized mammals were searching the forests for any kind of food they could cope with, the first large (but not yet gigantic) mammals were browsing on the abundant vegetation, and carnivorous mammals were stalking their prey.


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