A Jurassic mammal from South America

Abstract

The Jurassic period is an important stage in early mammalian evolution, as it saw the first diversification of this group, leading to the stem lineages of monotremes and modern therian mammals1. However, the fossil record of Jurassic mammals is extremely poor, particularly in the southern continents. Jurassic mammals from Gondwanaland are so far only known from Tanzania2,3 and Madagascar4, and from trackway evidence from Argentina5. Here we report a Jurassic mammal represented by a dentary, which is the first, to our knowledge, from South America. The tiny fossil from the Middle to Late Jurassic of Patagonia is a representative of the recently termed Australosphenida, a group of mammals from Gondwanaland that evolved tribosphenic molars convergently to the Northern Hemisphere Tribosphenida, and probably gave rise to the monotremes1. Together with other mammalian evidence from the Southern Hemisphere2,3,4,6,7,8, the discovery of this new mammal indicates that the Australosphenida had diversified and were widespread in Gondwanaland well before the end of the Jurassic, and that mammalian faunas from the Southern Hemisphere already showed a marked distinction from their northern counterparts by the Middle to Late Jurassic.

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Figure 1: Camera lucida drawings of the left mandible of Asfaltomylos patagonicus (holotype).
Figure 2: Dentition of the holotype of Asfaltomylos patagonicus.
Figure 3: Phylogenetic position of Asfaltomylos.

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Acknowledgements

We thank E. Eggert for preparation of the specimen, M. Bulang-Lörcher for drawing Fig. 1, U. Gloy for electronic figures and W. Müller for assisting at the scanning electron microscope (SEM). We also thank J. Habersetzer for carrying out the high-resolution X-ray analysis. The manuscript benefitted from comments by Z. Kielan-Jaworowska. This work was supported by a Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD) fellowship to O.R., a Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) Heisenberg fellowship to T.M., and an Antorchas grant to the MPEF.

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Correspondence to Thomas Martin.

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Rauhut, O., Martin, T., Ortiz-Jaureguizar, E. et al. A Jurassic mammal from South America. Nature 416, 165–168 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1038/416165a

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