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You are here: Home / Library / RBINS Staff Publications 2017 / An enigmatic ungulate from the early Eocene of India

Shawn P Zack, Kenneth D Rose, Kishor Kumar, Rajendra S Rana, and Thierry Smith (2017)

An enigmatic ungulate from the early Eocene of India

In: Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, 77th annual meeting, vol. Meeting Program and Abstracts, August 23-26 2017, Calgary, Canada, pp. 218.

The early Eocene Cambay Shale Formation in Gujarat State, India has produced a rich mammalian fauna, including the earliest artiodactyls, perissodactyls, primates, hyaenodonts, rodents, lagomorphs, chiropterans, and tillodonts from the Indian Subcontinent. While some of these groups show endemism at the generic or familial level, all belong to clades that are widely distributed across Laurasian continents, and some show particularly close similarities to contemporary taxa from other continents, particularly Europe. We report here a distinctive new taxon, represented by a mandible with p3-m3 and a second mandibular fragment with m3. The morphology of the new taxon is broadly comparable to diverse early ungulates from around the world but shows a unique suite of features including a strongly fused mandibular symphysis, enlarged anterior tooth alveolus, simple premolars lacking paraconids and with only a rudimentary metaconid on p4, progressive size increase of the molars distally, molar exodaenodonty/unilateral hypsodonty, molar paraconids absent, hypoconulids absent on m1-2, incipient development of selenodont buccal cusps and an incipient entolophid formed by a transverse entoconid, well-developed, and prominent m3 hypoconulid. One particularly distinctive feature is the presence of large, cuspate ectostylids on molar hypoflexids. While there are similarities to a variety of taxa, most notably periptychids, louisinids, early African “ungulates” (Abdounodus, Ocepeia), and even early anthracotheres, none of these is detailed enough to indicate a close relationship, and all appear to be better interpreted as convergence. Our present understanding suggests that these fossils represent a new family of “condylarth”-grade ungulates perhaps endemic to India. Although their overall adaptations are very different, there are some intriguing similarities to another group of enigmatic Eocene mammals from the Indian Subcontinent, Quettacyonidae. While more material is needed to test this possible relationship, quettacyonids and the new taxon may represent remnants of the eutherian fauna present in India prior to its first faunal exchange with the northern continents, and the new taxon likely has a lengthy, undocumented history in the Indian Paleocene. Grant Information: Fieldwork and research supported by Leakey Foundation, National Geographic Society, Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, and Belgian Science Policy Office.
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