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You are here: Home / Library / RBINS Staff Publications 2016 / A new hapalodectid (Mesonychia, Mammalia) from the Late Paleocene of the Qianshan Basin (Anhui Province, China): new data on the radiation of the hapalodectids

Floréal Solé, Eric De Bast, Jian Yang, Chang-Sen Li and Thierry Smith (2016)

A new hapalodectid (Mesonychia, Mammalia) from the Late Paleocene of the Qianshan Basin (Anhui Province, China): new data on the radiation of the hapalodectids

In: Society of Vertebrate Paleontology October 2016, ed. by Andy Farke; Amber MacKenzie; Jess Miller-Camp, vol. Astracts of papers 76th Annual Meeting, pp. 229, Society of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Mesonychians are an extinct group of primitive hoofed mammals. They have been found all over Laurasia and were well diversified: more than 20 genera are presently recorded. Mesonychia are divided into two families: Hapalodectidae and Mesonychidae. Hapalodectidae are recorded from the late Paleocene to the middle Eocene in Asia (Gashatan to Irdinmanhan), and in the early Eocene in North America (from Wasatchian to early Bridgerian). Hapalodectids remained small: the species of Hapalodectes, the type genus of the family, weighed between 500 g and 1 kg. Because the hapalodectids are relatively rare mammals, the discovery of new specimens, especially in the Paleocene, is crucial for understanding the evolution of these peculiar mammals. Field work in Qianshan Basin (Anhui Province, China) led to the discovery of a new lower jaw of the mesonychian Hapalodectes in Gashatan (late Paleocene) sediments. It is worth noting that the fragmentary mandible is only the third specimen of Hapalodectidae discovered in the Paleocene, and the first in southeast China. The premolars and molars of the new fossil are morphologically similar to Hapalodectes dux, the most primitive hapalodectid, but their relative proportions recall H. paleocenus and the Eocene Hapalodectes species. As a result, the fossil described herein appears to be different from the other previously described species of Hapalodectes in being morphologically intermediate between H. dux and the other Hapalodectes species; it is thus identified as a new species. Its discovery is important because it sheds light on the initial radiation of the hapalodectids. The presence of the most primitive hapalodectids in Mongolia (e.g., H. dux) suggests that the Mongolian area is the center of origination of this carnivorous family. The differences between the new species and the Eocene hapalodectids from China, H. huanghaiensis and H. hetangensis, imply that these species do not derive from the newly described species. Therefore, the new Chinese hapalodectid allows reconstructing the existence of two dispersals from the Mongolian area to the southeast of China, before and shortly after the Paleocene–Eocene boundary. At that latter time, Hapalodectes also dispersed from Asia to North America; this event was part of the 'East of Eden' dispersals. The Paleocene/Eocene transition thus appears as a crucial event for the distribution and radiation of the hapalodectids with the establishment of two distinct groups, respectively in North America and in the southeast of China. Grant Information This abstract is a contribution to the Belgian Bilateral Cooperation Project Belspo BL/36/C54 and China International S&T; Cooperation Project MOST 2009DFA32210.
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