Saturday, June 16, 2018

[PaleoMammalogy • 2018] Ambolestes zhoui • An Early Cretaceous Eutherian from the Jehol Biota, northeastern China and the Placental–Marsupial Dichotomy

 Ambolestes zhoui
 Bi, Zheng, Wang, Cignetti, Yang & Wible, 2018

Molecular estimates of the divergence of placental and marsupial mammals and their broader clades (Eutheria and Metatheria, respectively) fall primarily in the Jurassic period. Supporting these estimates, Juramaia—the oldest purported eutherian—is from the early Late Jurassic (160 million years ago) of northeastern China. Sinodelphys—the oldest purported metatherian—is from the same geographic area but is 35 million years younger, from the Jehol biota. Here we report a new Jehol eutherianAmbolestes zhoui, with a nearly complete skeleton that preserves anatomical details that are unknown from contemporaneous mammals, including the ectotympanic and hyoid apparatus. This new fossil demonstrates that Sinodelphys is a eutherian, and that postcranial differences between Sinodelphys and the Jehol eutherian Eomaia—previously thought to indicate separate invasions of a scansorial niche by eutherians and metatherians—are instead variations among the early members of the placental lineage. The oldest known metatherians are now not from eastern Asia but are 110 million years old from western North America, which produces a 50-million-year ghost lineage for Metatheria.

Class Mammalia Linnaeus, 1758
Infraclass Eutheria sensu Huxley, 1880

Order incertae sedis
Family incertae sedis

Ambolestes gen. nov.

Ambolestes zhoui sp. nov.

Etymology: Ambo (Latin), both, in reference to the mixture of features previously held to be from eutherians and metatherians; lestes (Greek), robber, a common ending for Cretaceous eutherians. The specific name zhoui is given in reference to Zhonghe Zhou, for his pioneering studies of the Jehol biota.

Shundong Bi, Xiaoting Zheng, Xiaoli Wang, Natalie E. Cignetti, Shiling Yang and John R. Wible. 2018. An Early Cretaceous Eutherian and the Placental–Marsupial Dichotomy. Nature.

Chinese scientists identify new mammal ancestor