No evidence for an afrotherian-like delayed dental eruption in South American notoungulates

Abstract

The fossil South American ungulates are of great interest relative to the new phylogenetic framework elaborated for living placental mammals. In particular, studies on these endemic taxa can allow for testing congruence between southern placental phylogeny and plate tectonics, beyond what has already been suggested in the Atlantogenata hypothesis based on extant afrotherians and xenarthrans. The presence of delayed dental eruption relative to skull growth is one feature characterizing the extant afrotherians and possibly the xenarthrans. Late dental eruption has been mentioned previously in South American notoungulates, thus suggesting possible resemblance with afrotherians and perhaps xenarthrans. We provide here a detailed study of the dental eruption pattern relative to the skull growth in the notoungulates. In contrast to previous statements, our results demonstrate that there is currently no evidence for an afrotherian-like delayed dental eruption in this group. For now, the inferred absence of a delayed dental eruption in notoungulates does not support atlantogenatan/afrotherian affinities for the Notoungulata, but other atlantogenatan/afrotherian characteristics remain to be explored in more detail in this group and other South American ungulates.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to warmly thank Marcelo Reguero (MLP) and Ariel Revan (YPM) for providing photos of specimens; François Pujos (IANIGLA, Mendoza) and Manuel Martinez (MNHN) for helping with the literature; Bernardino Mamani Quispe (MNHN-BOL), Christine Argot, and Claire Sagne (MNHN) for access to specimens under their care; and Rico Schellhorn (Steinmann-Institut, Bonn) for helpful advice. We also thank 2 anonymous reviewers, F. Agnolin and associate editor R. Asher for their precious comments. This research has been supported by a postdoctoral fellowship of the Alexander von Humboldt-Foundation (Bonn) to G. Billet.

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Correspondence to Guillaume Billet.

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Communicated by Robert Asher

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Billet, G., Martin, T. No evidence for an afrotherian-like delayed dental eruption in South American notoungulates. Naturwissenschaften 98, 509–517 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00114-011-0795-y

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Keywords

  • Ontogeny
  • Phylogeny
  • Placental
  • Growth
  • Atlantogenata