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Keywords:

  • basicranium;
  • Canada;
  • Primates;
  • Paleocene;
  • petrosal;
  • cladistics

Abstract

Plesiadapidae are a family of Paleogene mammals thought to have phylogenetic affinities with modern Primates. We describe previously unpublished dentitions and the first skull and isolated petrosals of the plesiadapid Pronothodectes gaoi, collected from middle Tiffanian localities of the Paskapoo Formation in Alberta. Other species of Pronothodectes, traditionally considered the most basal members of the Plesiadapidae, occur at earlier, Torrejonian horizons in Montana, Wyoming, and Alberta. Classification of P. gaoi as a species of Pronothodectes has proved controversial; accordingly, we use the newly available samples and the more extensively preserved specimens to re-evaluate the generic affinities of this species. Included in our study are comparisons with craniodental material known for other plesiadapids and plesiadapiforms. Cladistic analysis of craniodental characters is used to assess the hypothesis that P. gaoi and other species in this genus are basal members of the Plesiadapidae. The new dental evidence confirms that P. gaoi lacks derived character states of other plesiadapids except for a variably present fissuring of the m3 hypoconulid. Moreover, several aspects of the cranium seem to be more primitive in P. gaoi (i.e., more like nonplesiadapid plesiadapiforms) than in later occurring plesiadapids, such as Plesiadapis tricuspidens and Plesiadapis cookei. Cladistic analysis of craniodental morphology supports a basal position of P. gaoi among species of Plesiadapidae, with the exception of other species of Pronothodectes. The basicranium of P. gaoi preserves a laterally placed bony canal for the internal carotid neurovascular system, suggesting that this was the ancestral condition for the family. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.