, Volume 12, Issue 1-2, pp 265-282

Locking Yourself Out: Diversity Among Dentally Zalambdodont Therian Mammals

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We review the evolution of dental zalambdodonty across therian mammals. Among zalambdodonts, there is little or no occlusion between the protocone and talonid basin and one of the central cusps of the upper molars (metacone or paracone) and the talonid basin of the lower molars are lost or reduced. Over two dozen genera of therian mammals show zalambdodont molars, including tenrecids, chrysochlorids, Solenodon, the marsupial mole Notoryctes, the extinct placentals Apternodus, Oligoryctes, Parapternodus, and Koniaryctes, and the extinct marsupials Necrolestes and Yalkaparidon. The chiropteran Harpiocephalus is nearly zalambdodont. Transformation series provided by paleontological or ontogenetic data, plus occlusal relationships, can be used to determine the homology of molar cusps in zalambdodont taxa. Zalambdodont dental specialization does not appear to have led to ecological specialization. With the important exception of golden moles and tenrecs, dentally zalambdodont taxa are less speciose than their nonzalambdodont sister taxa.