JOURNAL ARTICLE

The oldest modern therian mammal from Europe and its bearing on stem marsupial paleobiogeography

Romain Vullo, Emmanuel Gheerbrant, Christian de Muizon, Didier Néraudeau
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2009 November 24, 106 (47): 19910-5
19892730
We report the discovery of mammalian tribosphenic teeth from the basal Cenomanian of southwestern France that we refer to a new primitive marsupial-like form identified as a basal taxon of Marsupialiformes, a new clade recognized here to include the crown group Marsupialia and primitive stem lineages more closely related to Marsupialia than to Deltatheroida. Arcantiodelphys marchandi gen et sp nov. shares several significant marsupial-like features (s.l.) with marsupialiform taxa known from the North American Mid-Cretaceous. Among marsupialiforms, it shows a closer resemblance to Dakotadens. This resemblance, which is plesiomorphic within "tribotherians," makes Arcantiodelphys one of the most archaic known Marsupialiformes. Moreover, Arcantiodelphys is characterized by an original and precocious crushing specialization. Both the plesiomorphic and autapomorphic characteristics of Arcantiodelphys among Marsupialiformes might be explained by an Eastern origin from Asian stem metatherians, with some in situ European evolution. In addition, the presence of a mammal with North American affinities in western Europe during the early Late Cretaceous provides further evidence of a large Euramerican biogeographical province at this age or slightly before. Concerning the paleobiogeographical history of the first stem marsupialiforms during the Albian-Cenomanian interval, 2 possible dispersal routes from an Asian metatherian ancestry can be proposed: Asia to Europe via North America and Asia to North America via Europe. The main significance of the Archingeay-Les Nouillers mammal discovery is that it indicates that the beginning of the stem marsupialiforms history involved not only North America but also Europe, and that this early history in Europe remains virtually unknown.

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