Australogale leptognathus, gen. et sp. nov., a Second Species of Small Sparassodont (Mammalia: Metatheria) from the Middle Miocene Locality of Quebrada Honda, Bolivia

Abstract

The Sparassodonta (Mammalia: Metatheria) were the principal group of carnivorous mammals in Cenozoic South America and an important component of this continent’s terrestrial predator guild for nearly 60 million years. However, knowledge of the evolutionary history of this group is biased towards species larger than 1.5 kg from extra-tropical latitudes. Here, we describe a new, small sparassodont from the late middle Miocene (Serravallian) of Quebrada Honda, Bolivia, a locality in the middle latitudes (southern tropics) of South America (~ 22° S). This species, Australogale leptognathus, gen. et sp. nov., is represented by a partial, well-preserved dentary and can be distinguished from other sparassodonts by a combination of features including a p3 that is much smaller than p2, absence of a posterobasal heel on p2, a conical entoconid, absence of an entocristid on m1, and an entocristid on m2 that is lingual to the trigonid. This new species is among the smallest Neogene sparassodonts, with an estimated body mass of ~840 g. Australogale leptognathus expands the known taxonomic and morphological diversity of late middle Miocene sparassodonts and provides evidence that the group may have been as diverse during the late middle Miocene as during the late Oligocene and early Miocene.

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Acknowledgements

We thank R.M.D. Beck, A.M. Forasiepi, F.J. Goin, and N. Zimicz for helpful information on the anatomy of other small extinct marsupials; R.S. Voss and K.J. Travouillon for discussing premolars of extant didelphoids and peramelemorphians, respectively; R. McCord (Arizona Museum of Natural History) for loans from the Larry Marshall Marsupial Dentition Collection; R. Wherley and G. Svenson (Cleveland Museum of Natural History) for generating high-resolution photographs of UATF-V-001900 and casts of Pseudonotictis pusillus; L. Jellma and Y. Haile-Selassie (CMNH) for facilitating x-ray images of UATF-V-001900; D. Su (Case Western Reserve University) for facilitating CT scanning of UATF-V-001900; R.M.D. Beck and N.M. Gardner for assistance with the phylogenetic analysis and Templeton test; the members of the 2013 field crew at Quebrada Honda (F. Carlini, P. Carlini, A. Catena, M. Ciancio, and N. Drew); A. Forasiepi and two anonymous reviewers for comments on the manuscript; J.R. Wible for serving as editor for the manuscript; and our home institutions for supporting this research. This research is part of the MS thesis of RKE at CWRU and was funded by the National Science Foundation (EAR 0958733 and EAR 1423058 to DAC).

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Correspondence to Russell K. Engelman.

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Engelman, R.K., Anaya, F. & Croft, D.A. Australogale leptognathus, gen. et sp. nov., a Second Species of Small Sparassodont (Mammalia: Metatheria) from the Middle Miocene Locality of Quebrada Honda, Bolivia. J Mammal Evol 27, 37–54 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10914-018-9443-z

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Keywords

  • Marsupial
  • Neotropics
  • Neogene
  • Sparassodonta
  • South America
  • Carnivore
  • Paleobiology