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A New Mammal Skull from the Late Cretaceous of Romania and Phylogenetic Affinities of Kogaionid Multituberculates

Abstract

Among the Late Cretaceous fossil sites of Europe, only those from the so-called “Haţeg Island” in Transylvania, western Romania, are remarkable by their abundance in mammal remains. Curiously, all of them belong to a single family of multituberculates, the Kogaionidae, one of the rare families that survived the Cretaceous-Paleogene mass extinction in Europe. Kogaionids are mostly represented by isolated teeth except for three partial large skulls from the Maastrichtian Sânpetru Formation of the Haţeg Basin that have been described from the Sânpetru locality as Kogaionon ungureanui and from the Pui locality as Barbatodon transylvanicus and Litovoi tholocephalos. Here we report for the first time the discovery of a partial skull associated with p4 of a small-sized kogaionid from the Nălaţ-Vad locality in the Sânpetru Formation that we refer to Kogaionon radulescui, sp. nov. An updated phylogenetic analysis, including seven Maastrichtian and Paleocene kogaionids is performed and confirms that Kogaionidae is a monophyletic clade at the base of Cimolodonta. Kogaionon differs from Barbatodon in its narrower snout, proportionally smaller P1, narrower anterior part of P4 with four similar-sized cusps in the middle row, more squared or rounded M1 with an anteroposteriorly longer lingual row, and shorter p4 (at least for K. radulescui). Litovoi tholocephalos is here considered to be a junior synonym of B. transylvanicus. Despite their Maastrichtian age, the very simple and conservative dental morphology of these Romanian kogaionids suggests that they originated from an eobaatarid-like ancestor dispersing from Asia or possibly already existing in Europe between the Barremian and Albian, 40 to 55 Ma earlier.

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Acknowledgements

We thank all members of our field team who participated in the paleontological expeditions in Transylvania since 2000. At RBINS we thank Julien Cillis, Eric De Bast, and Nathan Vallée-Gillette for assistance with SEM and optical photographs, Nathalie Van Hoey for preparation and casting, and Annelise Folie for table and electronic supplementary material formatting. We thank Zoltán Csiki-Sava (University of Bucharest) for photographs of Kogaionon ungureanui. We are grateful to reviewers Nao Kusuashi (Ehime University) and David W. Krause (Denver Museum of Nature & Science) and editor John Wible for thorough comments that led to significant improvements in the manuscript. This work was supported by the Belgian Science Policy Office project MO/36/001-004 (to TS), a grant from the Ministry of Research, Innovation and Digitization, CNCS/CCCDI – UEFISCDI, project number PD136/2020, within PNCDI III (to AAS), and Babeș-Bolyai University grants AGC 30362, 34783, 34782 (to VAC).

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Correspondence to Thierry Smith.

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Smith, T., Codrea, V.A., Devillet, G. et al. A New Mammal Skull from the Late Cretaceous of Romania and Phylogenetic Affinities of Kogaionid Multituberculates. J Mammal Evol 29, 1–26 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10914-021-09564-7

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10914-021-09564-7

Keywords

  • Mammalia
  • Multituberculata
  • Maastrichtian
  • Haţeg Basin
  • Romania