skip to main content


Search for: All records

Creators/Authors contains: "Wible, John R."

Note: When clicking on a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) number, you will be taken to an external site maintained by the publisher. Some full text articles may not yet be available without a charge during the embargo (administrative interval).
What is a DOI Number?

Some links on this page may take you to non-federal websites. Their policies may differ from this site.

  1. The Picrodontidae from the middle Palaeocene of North America are enigmatic placental mammals that were allied with various mammalian groups but are generally now considered to have close affinities to paromomyid and palaechthonid plesiadapiforms based on proposed dental synapomorphies. The picrodontid fossil record consists entirely of dental and gnathic remains except for one partial cranium of Zanycteris paleocenus (AMNH 17180). Here, we use µCT technology to unveil previously undocumented morphology in AMNH 17180, describe and compare the basicranial morphology of a picrodontid for the first time, and incorporate these new data into cladistic analyses. The basicranial morphology of Z. paleocenus is distinct from plesiadapiforms and shares similarities with the Palaeogene Apatemyidae and Nyctitheriidae. Results of cladistic analyses incorporating these novel data suggest picrodontids are not stem primates nor euarchontan mammals and that the proposed dental synapomorphies uniting picrodontids with plesiadapiforms and, by extension, primates evolved independently. Results highlight the need to scrutinize proposed synapomorphies of highly autapomorphic taxa with limited fossil records. 
    more » « less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2025
  2. After successfully diversifying during the Paleocene, the descendants of the first wave of mammals that survived the end‐Cretaceous mass extinction waned throughout the Eocene. Competition with modern crown clades and intense climate fluctuations may have been part of the factors leading to the extinction of these archaic groups. Why these taxa went extinct has rarely been studied from the perspective of the nervous system. Here, we describe the first virtual endocasts for the archaic order Tillodontia. Three species from the middle Eocene of North America were analyzed: Trogosus hillsii, Trogosus grangeri, and Trogosus castoridens. We made morphological comparisons with the plaster endocast of another tillodont,Tillodon fodiens, as well as groups potentially related to Tillodontia: Pantodonta, Arctocyonidae, and Cimolesta. Trogosus shows very little inter‐specific variation with the only potential difference being related to the fusion of the optic canal and sphenorbital fissure. Many ancestral features are displayed by Trogosus, including an exposed midbrain, small neocortex, orbitotemporal canal ventral to rhinal fissure, and a broad circular fissure. Potential characteristics that could unite Tillodontia with Pantodonta, and Arctocyonidae are the posterior position of cranial nerve V3 exit in relation to the cerebrum and the low degree of development of the subarcuate fossa. The presence of large olfactory bulbs and a relatively small neocortex are consistent with a terrestrial lifestyle. A relatively small neocortex may have put Trogosus at risk when competing with artiodactyls for potentially similar resources and avoiding predation from archaic carnivorans, both of which are known to have had larger relative brain and neocortex sizes in the Eocene. These factors may have possibly exacerbated the extinction of Tillodontia, which showed highly specialized morphologies despite the increase in climate fluctuations throughout the Eocene, before disappearing during the middle Eocene. 
    more » « less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2025
  3. The placental order Dermoptera, which includes two extant species, the Philippine and Sunda flying lemurs, Cynocephalus volans and Galeopterus variegatus, respectively, is generally held to be the sister group of Primates. Yet, little has been reported on their cranial anatomy. Here, the anatomy of the ear region is described and illustrated for a juvenile and adult C. volans based on CT scans. The inclusion of a juvenile is essential as nearly all cranial sutures are fused in the adult. Soft tissues are reconstructed based on sectioned histological pre- and postnatal specimens previously reported by the author. Numerous unusual features are identified, including: a small parasphenoid beneath the basisphenoid, a tensor tympani fossa on the epitympanic wing of the squamosal, a cavum supracochleare for the geniculate ganglion of the facial nerve that is not enclosed in the petrosal bone, a secondary facial foramen between the petrosal and squamosal, a secondary posttemporal foramen leading to the primary one, a subarcuate fossa that is floored in part by a large contribution from the squamosal, a body of the incus larger than the head of the malleus, and a crus longum of the incus that lacks an osseous connection to the lenticular process. Documentation of the anatomy of the Philippine flying lemur ear region is an essential first step in morphological phylogenetic analyses where features of the basicranium are widely sampled. 
    more » « less
  4. The individual bones of the adult cranium of the gray short-tailed opossum, Monodelphis domestica (Wagner, 1842) are described and illustrated in multiple views based on CT scans. The author previously reported on the outer bony surfaces of the skull of Monodelphis Burnett, 1830, and the current contribution is a companion piece, paying particular attention to the inner bony surfaces (within the endocranium and nasal cavity) and the facets between individual cranial elements, including the ethmo- and frontoturbinals. Comments are provided on the internal nasal floor skeleton, which in M. domestica includes a fused conglomerate formed by the medial palatine processes of the premaxillae, the vomer, the ethmoid, the presphenoid, and the orbitosphenoids. This conglomerate includes horizontal shelves just dorsal to the hard palate, and occurs widely in marsupials but is currently unknown in monotremes and placentals. 
    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    The placental order Dermoptera, which includes two extant species, the Philippine and Sunda flying lemurs,Cynocephalus volansandGaleopterus variegatus, respectively, is generally held to be the sister group of Primates. Yet, little has been reported on their cranial anatomy. Here, the anatomy of the ear region is described and illustrated for a juvenile and adultC. volansbased on CT scans. The inclusion of a juvenile is essential as nearly all cranial sutures are fused in the adult. Soft tissues are reconstructed based on sectioned histological pre‐ and postnatal specimens previously reported by the author. Numerous unusual features are identified, including: a small parasphenoid beneath the basisphenoid, a tensor tympani fossa on the epitympanic wing of the squamosal, a cavum supracochleare for the geniculate ganglion of the facial nerve that is not enclosed in the petrosal bone, a secondary facial foramen between the petrosal and squamosal, a secondary posttemporal foramen leading to the primary one, a subarcuate fossa that is floored in part by a large contribution from the squamosal, a body of the incus larger than the head of the malleus, and a crus longum of the incus that lacks an osseous connection to the lenticular process. Documentation of the anatomy of the Philippine flying lemur ear region is an essential first step in morphological phylogenetic analyses where features of the basicranium are widely sampled.

     
    more » « less
  6. South American Ungulates (SANUs) exhibit astonishing morphological and ecological diversity due to their almost complete isolation during their early evolution. This unique diversity coupled with the limited fossil record of their earliest evolution makes it difficult to establish their phylogenetic position within the placental mammal tree. Litopterna is the second most diverse order of SANUs after only Notoungulata, with species ranging from the middle Paleocene (~63 Ma) to the late Pleistocene. Among SANUs, litopterns are characterized by having cursorial limbs similar to Holarctic groups like Perissodactyla. Currently there are 67 genera of litopterns grouped into nine families, and the affinities of the Paleogene families remain unclear. Furthermore, it is unclear how litopterns are related to older groups of “archaic” Paleogene ungulates of South America (Kollpaninae and Didolodontidae) and North America (e.g., Mioclaenidae), and other SANUs. To test the phylogenetic relationships of Litopterna, we assembled a new morphological matrix with ~1000 craniodental and postcranial characters for 79 taxa. The data were subjected to Bayesian and maximum parsimony analyses. We conducted tip-dated and undated Bayesian analyses using a Mk + G model of morphological evolution. Fifty percent majority rule consensus trees were obtained from the sampled trees from each analysis. The parsimony analysis resulted in ten most parsimonious trees and a strict consensus was computed. The consensus trees derived from the different analyses were largely congruent. A traditional monophyletic Litopterna failed to be recovered as Protolipternidae was closely related to Didolodontidae. Litopterna was found more closely related to Kollpaninae than to North American Mioclaenidae, and Kollpaninae did not form a monophyletic group with the latter. Adianthidae and Indaleciidae were found in a relatively basal position within Litopterna. Macraucheniidae was found as a sister group to Proterotheriidae, whereas Anisolambdidae was the sister group of Sparnotheriodontidae, these four families forming a monophyletic group. By utilizing a more comprehensive approach, these results alter previous conceptions of the intrafamilial affinities within Litopterna and their position among other Paleogene ungulates, shedding new light on how litopterns evolved and diversified during the Paleogene of South America. Funding Sources ANID-PFCHA-Doctorado en el extranjero Becas Chile-2018-72190003, ERC starting grant PalM 756226, NSF DEB 1654949 and 1654952 
    more » « less
  7. Abstract The os paradoxum or dumb-bell-shaped bone is a paired bone occurring in the middle of the specialized bill of the platypus Ornithorhynchus anatinus . It has been variously considered as a neomorph of the platypus, as the homologue of the paired vomer of sauropsids, or as a part of the paired premaxillae. A review of the near 200-year history of this element strongly supports the os paradoxum as a remnant of the medial palatine processes of the premaxillae given its ontogenetic continuity with the premaxillae and association with the vomeronasal organ and cartilage, incisive foramen, and cartilaginous nasal septum. In conjunction with this hypothesis, homologies of the unpaired vomer of extant mammals and the paired vomer of extant sauropsids are also supported. These views are reinforced with observations from CT scans of O. anatinus , the Miocene ornithorhynchid Obdurodon dicksoni , and the extant didelphid marsupial Didelphis marsupialis . At the choanae, Obdurodon has what appears to be a separate parasphenoid bone unknown in extant monotremes. 
    more » « less
  8. After the end-Cretaceous extinction, placental mammals quickly diversified, occupied key ecological niches and increased in size, but this last was not true of other therians. The uniquely extended gestation of placental young may have factored into their success and size increase, but reproduction style in early placentals remains unknown. Here we present the earliest record of a placental life history using palaeohistology and geochemistry, in a 62 million-year-old pantodont, the clade including the first mammals to achieve truly large body sizes. We extend the application of dental trace element mapping9,10 by 60 million years, identifying chemical markers of birth and weaning, and calibrate these to a daily record of growth in the dentition. A long gestation (approximately 7 months), rapid dental development and short suckling interval (approximately 30–75 days) show that Pantolambda bathmodon was highly precocial, unlike non-placental mammals and known Mesozoic precursors. These results demonstrate that P. bathmodon reproduced like a placental and lived at a fast pace for its body size. Assuming that P. bathmodon reflects close placental relatives, our findings suggest that the ability to produce well-developed, precocial young was established early in placental evolution, and that larger neonate sizes were a possible mechanism for rapid size increase in early placentals. 
    more » « less