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The European Mesonychid Mammals: Phylogeny, Ecology, Biogeography, and Biochronology

Abstract

Here we review the fossil record of European mesonychids, which are known only through the genera Dissacus and Pachyaena from Thanetian and Ypresian localities (from MP6 to MP10 reference-levels). We describe two new species, Dissacus rougierae, sp. nov., and Dissacus raslanloubatieri, sp. nov., respectively from Palette (Ypresian, ≈MP7) and from La Borie (Ypresian, ≈MP8 + 9). We also describe new specimens of D. europaeus from Berru (Thanetian, ≈MP6). The evolution of the geographic distribution of the European mesonychids is characterized by three phases: (1) the mesonychid Dissacus appeared in Europe during the Thanetian (≈ 57–58 Mya), probably due to dispersal from North America; D. europaeus survived the PETM event (≈ 56 Mya) and possibly experienced a dwarfism; (2) the large mesonychid Pachyaena migrated into Europe shortly after the Paleocene-Eocene boundary (≈ 55 Mya), but it was restricted to northwestern Europe, while Dissacus is recorded at this time only in southwestern Europe (Palette); and (3) Pachyaena rapidly disappeared from European environments, while Dissacus subsequently dispersed into northwestern Europe (≈ 54–52 Mya). We performed phylogenetic analyses in order to identify the relationships of the new species among mesonychids. It seems that the mesonychids went through two radiative events: the first during the Paleocene, the second mostly during the early Eocene. The first one corresponds to the diversification of Dissacus, while the latter resulted in the appearance of the most specialized mesonychids, such as Pachyaena and Mesonyx.

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Acknowledgements

We thank C. Argot, P. Tassy, G. Billet, C. Sagne, P. Vincent (MNHN), Suzanne Jiquel and B. Marandat (Université Montpellier) for access to material. The optical photographs were taken by P. Loubry, L. Cazes (CNRS-MNHN), W. Miseur and E. De Bast (IRSNB). We thank Marta March and Salvador Moyà from ICP for having provided the numbers of the fossils they conserved. We are grateful to APSO volunteers and the Terreal Society, especially L. Nathan who kindly provided permits, help, and support for paleontological research. We thank Mrs. Nicole Verrière, who gave to the MNHN fossils from the collection of her father Mr. Molez, including several Dissacus specimens from Berru. We are greatful to the Rougier family, who facilitated field work in Palette. This work, especially the phylogenetic analysis, benefited from the constructive reviews of one anonymous paleontologist. This research was financially supported by the Federal Science Policy Office of Belgium (Belspo Brain project BR/121/A3/PalEurAfrica).

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Solé, F., Godinot, M., Laurent, Y. et al. The European Mesonychid Mammals: Phylogeny, Ecology, Biogeography, and Biochronology. J Mammal Evol 25, 339–379 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10914-016-9371-8

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Keywords

  • Paleocene
  • Eocene
  • Dwarfism
  • Evolution
  • Dispersal
  • Turnover