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Title: Life history of an archaic placental mammal, Pantolambda bathmodon (Placentalia, Pantodonta)
The rise of mammals after the extinction of the dinosaurs remains one of the most enigmatic intervals in the evolution of mammals. A relatively sparse Paleocene fossil record and confusing interrelationships between taxa means that little is known of the evolution, ecology, and biology of these animals. As a result, the life history of these organisms is completely unstudied, despite likely playing a key role in the ability of these clades to rapidly proliferate and increase in body size in recovering ecosystems. However, intensive collection efforts in the San Juan Basin of New Mexico in the last decade have drastically improved the record of many Paleocene mammals, and offer the first opportunity to address questions about the life history of these animals. Here, we present preliminary results of an in-depth paleohistological analysis of Pantolambda bathmodon, an early, possibly gregarious pantodont, using an ontogenetic series of individuals. Pantodonts were bizarre, herbivorous eutherians of unknown phylogenetic affinity, and were among the first mammal lineages to reach large body sizes in the Paleocene. In examining both dental and skeletal records of growth from the same individuals, including a juvenile still bearing deciduous teeth, our study is among the most comprehensive paleohistological analyses of any fossil mammal. This intensive approach allows for unprecedented insights into the life history of this species. Neonatal lines in the teeth indicate that the deciduous premolars and the first upper molar were erupted prior to birth, similar to precocious, nidifugous mammals today. Daily incremental lines in the enamel and dentine suggest rapid crown formation times (~45–70 days) and a gestation period of at least 15 weeks. A stress line in the postcranial bones, recording an anomalous decrease in growth towards the end of this individual’s life, may represent the weaning event. In the absence of geochemical evidence, it is unclear which of two stress lines in the teeth corresponds to this event, but these lines occur roughly one and two months after birth, respectively. The weanling perished approximately 2.5 months after birth, weighing about 17 kg. An adult individual exhibiting severe wear on the dentition allows us to estimate maximum longevity in Pantolambda bathmodon at about 7 years. In comparison with life history data on living mammals from the PanTheria dataset, Pantolambda bathmodon had a gestation length and weaning duration below average for a placental of its adult body size (42 kg), but within the range of known variation. However, its lifespan was exceptionally short, falling outside the bounds of comparable living mammals. Together, these lines of evidence suggest a relatively rapid pace of life in Pantolambda bathmodon, despite its relatively large body size. Ongoing sampling of more individuals and geochemical analyses should allow for estimation of time to sexual maturity and help to confirm the identity of the weaning line, completing our picture of the life history of this pioneering species.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
1654949
NSF-PAR ID:
10249195
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Vertebrate anatomy morphology palaeontology
Volume:
9
ISSN:
2292-1389
Page Range / eLocation ID:
17-18
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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