New basicrania of Paleocene-Eocene Ignacius: Re-evaluation of the Plesiadapiform-Dermopteran link


  • Jonathan I. Bloch,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Geological Sciences and Museum of Paleontology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-1079
    • Museum of Paleontology, University of Michigan, 1109 Geddes Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1079
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  • Mary T. Silcox

    1. Department of Anthropology, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania 16802-3404
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Plesiadapiformes has long been considered to be an archaic group of Primates. Discovery of a paromomyid plesiadapiform skull and independent analysis of referred postcrania have led investigators to conclude that Plesiadapiformes shares a closer relationship to extant flying lemurs (Dermoptera) than to Primates (= Euprimates of Hoffstetter [1977] Bull Mem Soc Anthropol Paris Ser 13 4:327–346). Despite challenges to this interpretation, the plesiadapiform-dermopteran relationship has gained currency in recent years. Here we show that newly discovered crania of Ignacius graybullianus, preserving previously undocumented portions of the ear, are more similar to primates than to dermopterans. New specimens confirm that paromomyids lacked the petrosal bulla of primates. However, these new specimens also demonstrate that paromomyids likely had: 1) a small promontorial branch of the internal carotid artery; 2) a lateral route for the internal carotid nerves crossing the promontorium; and 3) a ring-like ectotympanic with an annular bridge. This pattern is similar to primitive primates and fundamentally different from dermopterans, which have: 1) no internal carotid artery; 2) internal carotid nerves that take a more medial route; and 3) no annular bridge. Recognition of some primate-like traits, documented here by new evidence, indicates that Paromomyidae is likely to be more closely related to other Paleogene Plesiadapiformes and Eocene Primates than to extant Dermoptera. In view of these findings, a link between paromomyids and extant dermopterans (“Eudermoptera”) is not convincingly supported by a single characteristic of the basicranium. Am J Phys Anthropol 116:184–198, 2001. © 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.