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You are here: Home / Library / RBINS Staff Publications 2021 / A new Chinese partial skeleton revives questions about the multituberculate mammal Kryptobaatar

Ghéreint Devillet, Yan Sun, Hong Li, and Thierry Smith (2021)

A new Chinese partial skeleton revives questions about the multituberculate mammal Kryptobaatar

In: Multidisciplinary Workshop - Scientific Missions and their Advancement for Overseas Sciences: Past, Present and Future - Royal Academy for Overseas Sciences - Brussels, 20 December 2021, vol. Programme, pp. 18, Académie des Sciences d'Outre-Mer.

Multituberculates are an extinct rodent-like order that lived between Late Jurassic and late Eocene, on almost every continent. Due to their extraordinary longevity, their evolutive history is important to understand. One of the most numerous and best-preserved groups is the superfamily Djadochtatherioidea from the Late Cretaceous of the Gobi Desert. All djadochtatherioid genera are monospecific, except Kryptobaatar. The large number of K. dashzevegi fossils come from Outer Mongolia, while the only two specimens found in Bayan Mandahu, Inner Mongolia, China belong to K. mandahuensis. However, a new particularly well-preserved specimen (IMM 99BM-IV/5) found in Bayan Mandahu during the 1990s Sino-Belgian expeditions seems at first sight very close to K. dashzevegi. IMM 99BM-IV/5 consists of a skull associated with cervical and thoracic vertebrae, ribs, shoulder girdle, broken right humerus and an almost complete left forelimb. It is the first specimen for which the hand is described in detail. Based on micro-CT scan and comparison, it appears that IMM 99BM-IV/5 presents morphological characters of both species of Kryptobaatar, as well as new characters of its own. Phylogenetic analysis suggests that IMM 99BM-IV/5 has an intermediate position between K. dashzevegi and K. mandahuensis and could therefore belong to a new species. However, Kryptobaatar is paraphyletic in the resulting tree, which raises again questions about intraspecific variability in multituberculates. Since only 13 specimens of Kryptobaatar out of the hundreds found have been studied, it is impossible to reliably know if IMM 99BM-IV/5 is included in the variability of K. dashzevegi or not. However, it is crucial to know this variability to define whether the genus is monospecific or not. By comparing K. mandahuensis with published specimens, we concluded that it is a valid species. This work also highlighted the lack of knowledge of the variability of the type species K. dashzevegi, without which it is impossible to clearly assign IMM 99BM-IV/5. Finally, endemism alone is not the cause of this variability, but the role of paleoenvironment or age is currently unknown.
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Paleontology
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