Rooting Around the Eutherian Family Tree: the Origin and Relations of the Taeniodonta
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- Rook, D.L. & Hunter, J.P. J Mammal Evol (2014) 21: 75. doi:10.1007/s10914-013-9230-9
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Placing early groups into the overall phylogeny of eutherian mammals can be challenging, particularly when the group does not have extant members. We investigated the relationships of the Taeniodonta, an extinct group from the Late Cretaceous through Paleogene of North America. This group has a few purported close relatives, including Cimolestes, Procerberus, and Alveugena, that may form a sequence of ancestors and descendants. The leading hypothesis is that Procerberus gave rise to taeniodonts through Alveugena. We test this hypothesis and analyze relations to known stem and crown Eutheria to determine the place of taeniodonts in eutherian phylogeny. Cladistic analyses were performed using previously published characters and datasets, namely a taeniodont/cimolestid specific dataset and a reanalysis of Wible and colleagues (2009), with added taxa for both. Our studies suggest that taeniodonts arose from Cimolestes through Alveugena, that Procerberus is more distantly related to taeniodonts, and that taeniodonts and their relatives are stem eutherians. We diagnose the Taeniodonta based on these analyses. Other Paleogene groups, especially those allied with Cimolestes such as tillodonts and pantolestans, merit further study. Our findings indicate that stem eutherians such as the Taeniodonta, in addition to crown eutherians, continued to diversify during the Paleogene.