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Keywords:

  • Bugti Hills;
  • Chitarwata Formation;
  • cladistics;
  • Indian subcontinent;
  • Mesaceratherium;
  • palaeobiogeography;
  • Perissodactyla;
  • Pleuroceros;
  • Zinda Pir

Rhinocerotids are particularly abundant and diversified in Neogene deposits of the Indian subcontinent, but their systematics is far from being well defined. Based on the revision of old collections and new findings from the Early Miocene of the Bugti Hills and Zinda Pir, Pakistan, ‘Aceratherium blanfordi Lydekker, 1884’ is a chimera, consisting of two dentally convergent but postcranially distinct rhinocerotid taxa: Pleuroceros blanfordi and Mesaceratherium welcommi sp. nov. Postcranial features appear to be much more diagnostic than craniodental morphology in this case. A phylogenetic analysis based on 282 morphological characters scored for 28 taxa (four outgroups and ingroup including both taxa of interest and a ‘branching group’) strengthens this statement and supports Pleuroceros and Mesaceratherium as monophyletic genera within Rhinocerotinae. Both genera are recognized for the first time outside Europe. In the Bugti Hills, P. blanfordi and M. welcommi are part of an exceptionally diversified rhinocerotid fauna, with up to nine species associated in the same locality (Kumbi 4f). This rhinocerotid assemblage confirms the earliest Miocene age (Agenian/Aquitanian) of the upper member of the Chitarwata Formation as a whole. Coeval homotaxic rhinocerotid faunas from Europe (France, Czech Republic) and East Africa (Uganda, Kenya) support broad and sustainable rhinocerotid interchanges amongst South Asia, Europe, and Africa under compatible environmental conditions throughout earliest Miocene times.

© 2010 The Linnean Society of London, Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2010, 160, 139–194.