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New material of Natchitochia jonesi and a comparison of the innominata and locomotor capabilities of Protocetidae



This article is corrected by:

  1. Errata: Corrigendum Volume 30, Issue 4, 1600, Article first published online: 18 August 2014


New material of Natchitochia from the Bartonian Archusa Marl Member is described here, including thoracic, lumbar, sacral, and caudal vertebrae, an innominate, proximal femur, and pedal? phalanx. The vertebrae and innominate are similar to those of Qaisracetus and Georgiacetus. The structure of the caudal vertebrae support previous observations that as sacral vertebrae disconnect from the sacrum, they become caudalized, developing hemal processes on the posteroventral margins of the bodies, reminiscent of chevron bones associated with true caudal vertebrae. The innominate of Natchitochia shares an elongate ilium and pubis with Qaisracetus and Georgiacetus, which differ from the innominata of the more apomorphic archaeocetes. Comparison of archaeocete innominata and sacra in a phylogenetic context indicates that the apomorphic sacrum composed of 4 vertebrae (Pakicetus, Ambulocetus, Rodhocetus, Maiacetus) was reduced to 3 (Qaisracetus) to 2 (Protocetus?, Natchitochia) to 0 (Georgiacetus, Basilosauridae), while the innominata remained robust, supporting a large hind limb until the origin of the Basilosauridae. In Georgiacetus, the innominate is large but detached from the vertebral column, preventing the use of the hind limb in terrestrial locomotion. More crownward cetaceans for which the innominate is known display greatly reduced innominata and hind limbs are disconnected from the vertebral column.