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Gliding behaviour and palaeoecology of the alleged primate family Paromomyidae (Mammalia, Dermoptera)


THE extinct Paromomyidae, known from early Tertiary strata of North America1–6 and Europe7–8, have traditionally been viewed as an archaic radiation of the order Primates1–11. Hypotheses about the phylogenetic position and palaeobiology of these animals have, however, been highly constrained because postcranial fossils of paromomyids have not been positively identified until now. Newly discovered fossils representing the paromomyid genera Phenacolemur and Ignacius show that these animals share functionally important postcranial synapomorphies with extant Cynocephalus (the flying lemur), the only living member of the mammalian order Dermoptera. These traits strongly suggest that paromomyids possessed a patagium, or gliding membrane, which was homologous to that of Cynocephalm. Paromomyids therefore provide both the earliest evidence for the evolution of gliding behaviour in mammals and the only fossil record currently recognized for the eutherian order Dermoptera12.

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Beard, K. Gliding behaviour and palaeoecology of the alleged primate family Paromomyidae (Mammalia, Dermoptera). Nature 345, 340–341 (1990).

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