Thursday, August 9, 2018

[PaleoMammalogy • 2018] Nanodobenus arandai • A Dwarf Walrus from the Miocene of Baja California Sur, Mexico

Nanodobenus arandai 
Velez-Juarbe & Salinas-Márquez, 2018

Here, we describe the odobenid Nanodobenus arandai gen. et sp. nov., based on a nearly complete left mandible from the mid to late Miocene Tortugas Formation in Baja California Sur. Nanodobenus is distinguished among odobenids by displaying a unique combination of plesiomorphic and derived characters, such as narrow mandibular symphysis, well-developed genial tuberosity, bilobed canine and p2 roots, bulbous post-canine teeth with the paraconid, protoconid and hypoconid, and smooth lingual cingula. Moreover, it is characterized by its small adult body length, which is estimated at about 1.65 m. Throughout the Miocene–Pliocene odobenids are characterized by an increase in body size, especially after the extinction of desmatophocids in the late Miocene. The small size of Nanodobenus departs from this trend, demonstrating that there was greater size disparity among odobenids in the mid–late Miocene than previously thought. It is hypothesized that Nanodobenus occupied a niche that was later on occupied by similar-sized otariids, such as Thalassoleon mexicanus, which occurs sympatrically with large odobenids in the overlying Almejas Formation.

KEYWORDS: Odobenidae, marine mammals, eastern Pacific, Miocene

Systematic palaeontology
Pinnipedia Illiger, 1811
Odobenidae Allen, 1880

Nanodobenus arandai, gen. et sp. nov.

Etymology. The name derives from the combination of ‘nano’, from the Latin ‘nanus’ which translates to dwarf, in reference to the small size of the specimen and estimated body size, combined with Odobenus, the genus of extant walrus, Odobenus rosmarus (Linnaeus, 1758), and the occasionally used suffix in odobenids (e.g. Archaeodobenus). The specific epithet honours Dr Francisco Aranda-Manteca (UABC) in recognition of his mentorship to the junior author and contributions to the knowledge of extinct marine vertebrates of Baja California and Baja California Sur.

Holotype. UABC FCM 0072, nearly complete left mandible, including p2–4. Collected by T. McMillan, c. 1987.

Type locality. Arroyo La Chiva (=Arroyo Tiburón [12–14]), Asunción, Baja California Sur, Mexico (figure 1).

Figure 2. Mandible and lower dentition of Nanodobenus arandai gen. et sp. nov. (UABC FCM 0072).
Mandible in lateral (a), medial (b) and occlusal (c) views. Lower dentition in labial (d), lingual (e) and occlusal (f) views. 
Abbreviations: c, lower canine; di, digastric insertion; gt, genial tuberosity; hyd, hypoconid; lc, lingual cingulum; p1–4, lower premolars 1–4; m1–2, lower molars 1–2; maf, masseteric fossa; mf, mental foramina; mnf, mandibular foramen; ms, mandibular sumphysis; pad, paraconid; prd, protoconid; wf, wear facet.

Figure 4. Time-calibrated strict consensus tree of Odobenidae and body size distribution.
Species range from [Velez-Juarbe, 2017; Boessenecker & Churchill, 2018; Boessenecher et al., 2018]; body size estimates from table 3 and outlines modified from Berta et al. [2018] and Lydersen [2018]. Numbers in nodes represent posterior probability (in bold) and bootstrap values.

Jorge Velez-Juarbe and Fernando M. Salinas-Márquez. 2018. A Dwarf Walrus from the Miocene of Baja California Sur, Mexico. Royal Society Open Science. DOI: 10.1098/rsos.180423