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You are here: Home / Library / RBINS Staff Publications 2017 / New fossils of paroxyclaenids (Placentalia, Mammalia) from the early Eocene of France shed light on the origin and evolution of these endemic European mammals

Floréal Solé, Kévin Leverger, Alain Phélizon and Thierry Smith (2017)

New fossils of paroxyclaenids (Placentalia, Mammalia) from the early Eocene of France shed light on the origin and evolution of these endemic European mammals

In: Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, 77th annual meeting, vol. Meeting Program and Abstracts, August 23-26 2017, Calgary, Canada, pp. 197.

Paroxyclaenidae is an enigmatic archaic group of middle size placental mammals. They are known only from Europe, and are recorded from the early Eocene (Ypresian) to the middle Eocene (Bartonian). Paroxyclaenids are divided into two distinct subfamilies: Paroxyclaeninae and Merialinae. They have been variously placed by different authors in Carnivora, Creodonta, ‘Condylarthra’, and Insectivora, but are considered since 1970’s as members of Pantolesta. The dentition of paroxyclaenids is complete (4 premolars, 3 molars); it is highly specialized, with relatively enlarged posterior premolars, spaced out cheek teeth, but primitive, for instance, in the absence of hypocone on upper molars. The molars decrease in size from M1/m1 to M3/m3; the M3 and m3 are sometimes well reduced. A particularity of the dentition of some paroxyclaenids is the tendency to enlargement and molarisation of the third and fourth upper and lower premolars, generally exceeding the succeeding molars in size. We recently studied unpublished fossils from the first half of the Ypresian: these fossils originate from the French localities of Le Lien (Hérault), Pourcy, Mutigny, Avenay (Marne), and Condé-en-Brie (Aisne). They allow to describe new specimens of Merialus martinae (the oldest paroxyclaenid) and three new species – the oldest paroxyclaenine and two merialines. Their study is the opportunity to review the evolution of this family – the last extensive and comprehensive review of the paroxyclaenids has been published in 1988. The two paroxyclaenid subfamilies – Paroxyclaeninae and Merialinae – are rarely recorded together: this case only occurs in the Paris Basin during the early Eocene (Mutigny, Avenay, Condé-en-Brie). Half of the merialines are present in the Southern European Province, while the paroxyclaenines are only recorded in Northern European Province. The two subfamilies reach their maximum size (+/- 3-4 kg) (e.g., Spaniella, Kopidodon) around the early/middle Eocene boundary (47.8 Myr). However, some smaller paroxyclaenids (body mass around 1 kg) have co-existed together with the larger ones. The small middle Eocene paroxyclaenids, which are as small as the taxa found in the early Eocene, have been the last representatives of the group (Bartonian). The maximum of diversity of the Paroxyclaenids occurred during the Lutetian (middle Eocene). Finally, because the new fossils provide information on the morphology of the earliest paroxyclaenids, their study is the opportunity to question the origin of this group and its relationships among Placentalia. Grant Information: This abstract is a contribution to the project BR/121/A3/PALEURAFRICA funded by the Belgian Science Policy Office.
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Paleontology
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