, Volume 97, Issue 4, pp 365–377 | Cite as

New postcrania of Deccanolestes from the Late Cretaceous of India and their bearing on the evolutionary and biogeographic history of euarchontan mammals

  • Doug M. Boyer
  • Guntupalli V. R. Prasad
  • David W. Krause
  • Marc Godinot
  • Anjali Goswami
  • Omkar Verma
  • John J. Flynn
Original Paper


Extant species of the supraordinal mammal clade Euarchonta belong to the orders Primates, Scandentia, or Dermoptera. The fossil record of euarchontans suggests that they underwent their initial radiation during the Paleocene (65–55 million years ago) in North America, Eurasia, and Africa. The time and place of origin is poorly resolved due to lack of definitive fossils of euarchontan stem taxa. We describe a fragmentary humerus and two fragmentary ulnae from the latest Cretaceous of India that bear significantly on this issue. The fossils are tentatively referred to Deccanolestes cf. hislopi due to their small size and the fact that Deccanolestes is the only eutherian dental taxon to have been recovered from the same locality. The new fossils are used to evaluate the existing behavioral hypothesis that Deccanolestes was arboreal, and the competing phylogenetic hypotheses that Deccanolestes is a stem eutherian versus a stem euarchontan. The humerus resembles those of euarchontans in possessing a laterally keeled ulnar trochlea, a distinct zona conoidea, and a spherical capitulum. These features also suggest an arboreal lifestyle. The ulnar morphology is consistent with that of the humerus in reflecting an arboreal/scansorial animal. Detailed quantitative comparisons indicate that, despite morphological correlates to euarchontan-like arboreality, the humerus of Deccanolestes is morphologically intermediate between those of Cretaceous “condylarthran” mammals and definitive Cenozoic euarchontans. Additionally, humeri attributed to adapisoriculids are morphologically intermediate between those of Deccanolestes and definitive euarchontans. If adapisoriculids are euarchontans, as recently proposed, our results suggest that Deccanolestes is more basal. The tentative identification of Deccanolestes as a basal stem euarchontan suggests that (1) Placentalia began to diversify and Euarchonta originated before the Cretaceous–Tertiary boundary and (2) the Indian subcontinent, Eurasia, and Africa are more likely places of origin for Euarchonta than is North America.


Adapisoriculid Afrodon Paleobiogeography Palaeoryctoid Placental Primate origins Sweepstakes dispersal 



P Gingerich and R Fox provided access to plesiadapid and other fossil euarchontan specimens and M Jin granted loans that allowed the inclusion of specimens of Protungulatum and Procerberus. S Judex and C Rubin provided access to the Scanco µCT 40 machine. Discussions with J Bloch, S Chester, E Sargis, and E Seiffert provided important insights. S Florales took SEM pictures of the humerus and ulna. We are grateful for the comments of three anonymous reviewers that significantly improved the manuscript. Funding was provided via a National Science Foundation (NSF) doctoral dissertation improvement grant to DMB (BCF-0622544), an NSF grant (EAR-0446488) to DWK, and by the Department of Science and Technology (New Delhi; Grant No. SR/S4/ES/24/2002) to GVRP.

Supplementary material

114_2010_648_MOESM1_ESM.doc (119 kb)
ESM Table 1 Humerus measurements. See Fig. 5 for illustration of measurements. G1 geometric mean of all measurements except EEC, used for shape variables of principal coordinates analysis, G2 geometric mean of all variables except TL and CL, used to represent humerus size in main text Fig. 3, S&D Szalay and Dagosto. (DOC 119 kb)
114_2010_648_MOESM2_ESM.doc (50 kb)
ESM Table 2 Coordinate loadings. Eigenvalue and percent variance represented by each coordinate follows its name in parentheses. Variables with top four highest Pearson correlation coefficients are given below the coordinate to which they are correlated (coefficient of correlation in parentheses). See main text Fig. 5 for illustration of measurements. (DOC 50 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Doug M. Boyer
    • 1
  • Guntupalli V. R. Prasad
    • 2
  • David W. Krause
    • 3
  • Marc Godinot
    • 4
  • Anjali Goswami
    • 5
  • Omkar Verma
    • 6
  • John J. Flynn
    • 7
  1. 1.Department of Ecology and EvolutionStony Brook UniversityStony BrookUSA
  2. 2.Department of GeologyUniversity of DelhiDelhiIndia
  3. 3.Department of Anatomical SciencesStony Brook UniversityStony BrookUSA
  4. 4.Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, UMR 7207ParisFrance
  5. 5.Department of Genetics, Evolution, and EnvironmentUniversity College LondonLondonUK
  6. 6.School of Biosciences & BiotechnologyBaba Ghulam Shah Badshah UniversityRajouriIndia
  7. 7.Division of Paleontology and Richard Gilder Graduate SchoolAmerican Museum of Natural HistoryNew YorkUSA

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