Gaudeamus lavocati sp. nov. (Rodentia, Hystricognathi) from the early Oligocene of Zallah, Libya: first African caviomorph?

Pauline Coster, Mouloud Benammi, Vincent Lazzari, Guillaume Billet, Thomas Martin, Mustafa Salem, Awad Abolhassan Bilal, Yaowalak Chaimanee, Mathieu Schuster, Xavier Valentin, Michel Brunet, Jean-Jacques Jaeger
Die Naturwissenschaften 2010, 97 (8): 697-706
A new African species of hystricognathous rodent, Gaudeamus lavocati sp. nov., is described herein from the early Oligocene deposits of Zallah locality (Sirt basin, Central Libya). The dental morphology of this species is very close to that of some earliest South American caviomorphs. It allows a reinterpretation of molar crest homologies among earliest caviomorphs, pentalophodonty being confirmed as the plesiomorphic molar condition in Caviomorpha. This morphological resemblance argues for close affinities between Gaudeamus and earliest South American hystricognaths. Cladistic analysis supports Gaudeamus lavocati sp. nov. as the first known African representative of Caviomorpha, implying that its ancestors were part of the African phiomyid group that crossed the South Atlantic by a direct immigration route. Alternatively, the series of derived dental features of Gaudeamus could also be interpreted as evolutionary synchronous convergences of an African hystricognath lineage towards the specialized pattern of some caviomorphs. However, the high level of similarities concerning teeth morphology and enamel microstructure and the similar age of fossiliferous strata on both continents make this interpretation less probable. The phylogenetic position of this taxon is of considerable importance because it represents an enigmatic component of the phiomorph-caviomorph radiation in Africa and appears as a new clue toward the understanding of caviomorph origins.

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