Persistence of a Mesozoic, non-therian mammalian lineage (Gondwanatheria) in the mid-Paleogene of Patagonia
We describe two isolated molariforms recovered from early-middle Eocene (early Lutetian) levels of northwestern Patagonia, Argentina. Comparisons with major lineages of therian and non-therian mammals lead us to refer them to a new genus and species of Gondwanatheria (Allotheria). There is a single root supporting each tooth that is very short, wide, rounded, and covered by cementum; the steep sidewalls, lack of a neck between the crown and root, and the heavily worn stage in both molariforms suggest that they were of a protohypsodont type. Both teeth are strongly worn at their centers, all along their length, with the labial edge less worn than the lingual; they show strong transverse crests that alternate with lingual grooves. The protohypsodont aspect of the teeth, as well as the strong, transverse crests, are suggestive of sudamericid affinities; on the other hand, the thin enamel layer and the occlusal pattern formed by the crests and grooves shows more similarities to molariform teeth of the Ferugliotheriidae. The new taxon adds evidence regarding the (1) extensive radiation of the Gondwanatheria throughout the Southern Hemisphere, (2) persistence of several lineages well after the Cretaceous/Paleogene boundary, and (3) early evolution of hypsodont types among South American herbivorous mammals.