quinta-feira, 14 de junho de 2018

An Early Cretaceous eutherian and the placental–marsupial dichotomy

Nature (2018) | Download Citation

Abstract

Molecular estimates of the divergence of placental and marsupial mammals and their broader clades (Eutheria and Metatheria, respectively) fall primarily in the Jurassic period. Supporting these estimates, Juramaia—the oldest purported eutherian—is from the early Late Jurassic (160 million years ago) of northeastern China.  

Sinodelphys—the oldest purported metatherian—is from the same geographic area but is 35 million years younger, from the Jehol biota. Here we report a new Jehol eutherian, Ambolestes zhoui, with a nearly complete skeleton that preserves anatomical details that are unknown from contemporaneous mammals, including the ectotympanic and hyoid apparatus. 

This new fossil demonstrates that Sinodelphys is a eutherian, and that postcranial differences between Sinodelphys and the Jehol eutherian Eomaia—previously thought to indicate separate invasions of a scansorial niche by eutherians and metatherians—are instead variations among the early members of the placental lineage. The oldest known metatherians are now not from eastern Asia but are 110 million years old from western North America, which produces a 50-million-year ghost lineage for Metatheria.