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Origin and evolution of the Pseudorhyncocyonidae, a European Paleogene family of insectivorous placental mammals



Two new species of pseudorhyncocyonid, Fordonia lawsoni sp. nov. and Leptictidium prouti sp. nov. from the UK earliest Eocene, described here, are older than any previously recorded member of the family. They are represented by teeth from numerous loci, which allow a better understanding of the sparsely known dentitions of currently known pseudorhyncocyonids. This facilitates the recognition of two further species of Leptictidium, L. listeri sp. nov. from the Middle Eocene of Germany and L. storchi sp. nov. from the Late Eocene of France. Study of occlusal relationships also helps to fill gaps in our knowledge of missing tooth loci. Cladistic analysis of pseudorhyncocyonids with their previously judged closest relatives, the Leptictidae, Pantolesta and Palaeanodonta, shows that two European species, Diaphyodectes prolatus and Palaeictops? levei, formerly thought to be leptictids, are instead primitive pseudorhyncocyonids, extending the range of the family further back in time to the Middle Paleocene. Plevei is placed in the new genus Phakodon gen. nov. The analysis also shows that the Pseudorhyncocyonidae are sister group to the other three groups combined and that family-level differentiation in this probable clade took place as early as the earliest Paleocene.

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