Article

A Jurassic gliding euharamiyidan mammal with an ear of five auditory bones

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Abstract

Gliding is a distinctive locomotion type that has been identified in only three mammal species from the Mesozoic era. Here we describe another Jurassic glider that belongs to the euharamiyidan mammals and shows hair details on its gliding membrane that are highly similar to those of extant gliding mammals. This species possesses a five-boned auditory apparatus consisting of the stapes, incus, malleus, ectotympanic and surangular, representing, to our knowledge, the earliest known definitive mammalian middle ear. The surangular has not been previously identified in any mammalian middle ear, and the morphology of each auditory bone differs from those of known mammals and their kin. We conclude that gliding locomotion was probably common in euharamiyidans, which lends support to idea that there was a major adaptive radiation of mammals in the mid-Jurassic period. The acquisition of the auditory bones in euharamiyidans was related to the formation of the dentary-squamosal jaw joint, which allows a posterior chewing movement, and must have evolved independently from the middle ear structures of monotremes and therian mammals.

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Acknowledgements

We thank S.-H. Xie for specimen preparation; P.-F. Yin and Y.-M. Hou for computed laminography scanning of the specimens; X.-T. Zheng, X.-L. Wang, H.-J. Li, Z.-J. Gao, X.-H. Ding, and D.-Y. Sun for access to comparative specimens; N. Wong for drawing the auditory bones and animal reconstruction; D. W. Krause and S. Hoffmann for sharing data and insights on incisor identification; D. Sigogneau-Russell and Z.-X. Luo for permissions to use their published figures; and Z.-X. Luo, Z.-H. Zhou, X. Xu, G. Rougier, J. A. Schultz, A. S. Tucker, and M. Takechi for discussions. This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41688103; 41404022) and the Strategic Priority Research Program (B) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (XDB18000000).

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Paleontology Center, Bohai University, Jinzhou, Liaoning Province, 121013, China

    • Gang Han
  2. Hainan Tropical Ocean University, Sanya, Hainan Province 572022, China

    • Gang Han
  3. Key Laboratory of Evolutionary Systematics of Vertebrates, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, PO Box 643, Beijing 100044, China

    • Fangyuan Mao
    •  & Yuanqing Wang
  4. Department of Biology, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana, Pennsylvania 15705, USA

    • Shundong Bi
  5. Division of Paleontology, American Museum of Natural History, New York, New York 10024, USA

    • Jin Meng

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Contributions

G.H. and J.M. conceived the study. G.H. acquired and curated the specimens and did the field investigation. F.M. conducted computed laminography, rendered the data, and did most of the phylogenetic analyses and figures. S.B., Y.W. and F.M. helped to build the character list. J.M. supervised preparation of the specimen and design of the figures and drafted the manuscript; all authors edited and approved the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Fangyuan Mao or Jin Meng.

Reviewer Information Nature thanks G. Rougier and the other anonymous reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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