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Sandrine Ladev├Ęze, Richard Smith and Thierry Smith (2012)

Reassessment of the Morphology and Taxonomic Status of the earliest Herpetotheriid Marsupials of Europe

Journal of Mammalian Evolution, 19(4):249-261.

The earliest Eocene locality of Dormaal (Belgium) has provided the oldest Cenozoic herpetotheriid marsupials of Europe. No herpetotheriid has ever been reported earlier than the Eocene in Europe, except for a questionable single upper molar from the Upper Cretaceous of the Belgian/Dutch border. The systematics of the herpetotheriids of Dormaal was formerly based on only a dozen dental specimens, which were assigned, after several revisions, to two species Peratherium constans and Amphiperatherium brabantense. Most importantly, these two species were considered at the root of most of the hepetotheriid lineages of the European Paleogene. Here we report a large sample of about 400 new dental remains that allow a better definition of both species as well as a testing of their systematic status. The evidence of significant morphological variability leads us to reconsider the diagnosis of Peratherium constans and to question the validity of Amphiperatherium brabantense. This study highlights that the primitive species Peratherium constans and Amphiperatherium brabantense are hardly distinguishable from each other, and therefore conclude that Peratherium constans was the only marsupial present at Dormaal. The important morphological variation exhibited by this herpetotheriid is similar to the variability observed in the type-species Peratherium elegans and in other fossil and extant metatherians. Consequently, our results suggest that several Amphiperatherium species from the Eocene could represent variants of the genus Peratherium. The question of the Amphiperatherium presence in Europe is therefore raised and a thorough discriminate analysis of both genera should be conducted in later works.
Peer Review, Impact Factor, RBINS Collection(s)
Paleontology
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