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  1. Alba, D.M. ; Marigó, J. ; Nacarino-Meneses, C. ; Villa, A. (Ed.)
    The end-Cretaceous mass extinction triggered the collapse of ecosystems and a drastic turnover in mammalian communities leading to the demise of many ecologically specialized species. While Mesozoic mammals were ecomorphologically diverse, recognizable ecological richness was only truly established in the Eocene. Questions remain about the ecology of the first wave of mammals radiating after the extinction. Here, we use the semicircular canals of the inner ear as a proxy for locomotor behavior. Thirty new inner ear virtual endocasts were generated using high-resolution computed tomography scanning. This sample was supplemented by data from the literature to construct a dataset of 79 fossils spanning the Jurassic to the Eocene alongside 262 extant mammals. Vestibular sensitivity was measured using the radius of curvature against body mass and the residuals of this relationship were analyzed. The petrosal lobule size relative to body mass were compared with the inner ear data as they have a role in maintaining gaze stabilization during motion. Paleocene mammals exhibited smaller canal radius of curvature, compared to Mesozoic, Eocene, and extant taxa. In the early Paleocene, canal radius and associated petrosal lobules were relatively smaller on average compared to other temporal groups, suggesting less ability for fast movements. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 26, 2024
  2. With the dawn of the Paleogene, the mammalian survivors of the Cretaceous–Paleogene mass extinction, 66 million years ago, found themselves in an emptied landscape. Within a million years of the bolide impact, placental mammals reached a diversity and abundance never seen during the Age of Dinosaurs. The North American ‘condylarths’ were amongst the first mammals to diversify during the early Paleogene and are often considered the ancestral ‘stock’ from which other euungulate groups evolved. Amongst these, Phenacodontidae are often regarded to lie at the base of the perissodactyl family tree, but their phylogenetic position, and that of other ‘condylarths’, remain contentious. Tetraclaenodon, a medium-sized herbivorous phenacodontid from the Torrejonian (~64 to ~62 Ma) of North America is generally recognized as the oldest member of Phenacodontidae, and thus is instrumental for untangling the evolutionary relationships of ‘condylarths’ and perissodactyls. Here we present new information on Tetraclaenodon based on a description of new and previously known fossil material from the San Juan Basin of New Mexico, U.S.A., which we studied using high-resolution computed tomography (CT) scanning. From CT scans of the cranium, we segmented the brain endocast, which is relatively small and smooth (lissencephalic), similar to that of other Paleocene mammals. The petrosal lobules, which are involved in eye movement coordination, are small. The semi-circular canals associated with balance, provide an agility score of 3 indicating that Tetraclaenodon was probably moderately agile, similar to the extant raccoon dog or the aardwolf. A multivariate analysis of tarsal measurements for a sample of Paleocene and extant mammals, which informs locomotor style, indicates that Tetraclaenodon was most suited to terrestrial locomotion. This is in line with anatomical and myological features of the limbs of Tetraclaenodon and other phenacodontids, early perissodactyls and extant mammals. These findings contradict previous studies that designated Tetraclaenodon as a scansorial mammal, capable of habitually climbing trees. Our results shed light on the locomotory adaptations of Tetraclaenodon in comparison to more cursorial phenacodontids and perissodactyls, such as Phenacodus and Hyrachyus. The earliest member of the perissodactyl stem lineage apparently lacked the more cursorial adaptations of their relatives in the late Paleocene and onwards. 
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  3. Early Paleocene floral communities were substantially restructured as a result of the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) mass extinction approximately 66.0 Ma. While events immediately adjacent to the K-Pg boundary have been extensively studied, comparatively little research has looked at long-term terrestrial ecosystem recovery during the early Paleocene. The San Juan Basin (SJB), located in northwestern New Mexico, preserves an exceptional, large, and well-dated early Paleocene plant record making it an ideal location to study long-term recovery of early Paleocene terrestrial ecosystems. Here we investigate early Paleocene terrestrial ecosystem change using a coupled high-resolution plant and δ13C record from the SJB. Plant macrofossils were collected from the lower Paleocene Ojo Alamo Sandstone and lower Nacimiento Formation in the SJB spanning the initial ~1.5 myr of the Paleocene. Macrofloral extinction, origination, and net diversification rates were simultaneously estimated using the Pradel capture-mark-recapture (CMR) model from 66.0 – 64.5 Ma with 100 Kyr time-steps. Two intervals of decreasing floral diversity were identified: a short interval at ~65.5 Ma and a prolonged interval from ~65.2 – 64.7 Ma. Two short intervals of rapidly increasing floral diversity were also identified: the first at ~65.3 Ma and the second at ~64.6 Ma. The onset of both intervals of decreasing floral diversity are coeval with a -1.5 to -2.5 ‰ bulk organic δ13C excursion. We also applied the Pradel CMR model to contemporaneous macrofloras from the Denver Basin (DB), Colorado and the Williston Basin (WB), North Dakota and Montana. The floral diversity patterns estimated from the DB and WB indicate intervals of increasing and decreasing floral diversity that are coeval with the same intervals identified in the SJB. This suggests a regional driver in patterns of floral diversity change during the early Paleocene in western North America, which reflects prolonged terrestrial ecosystem instability following the K-Pg mass extinction. 
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  4. Understanding the tectonic and landscape evolution of the Colorado Plateau−southern Rocky Mountains area requires knowledge of the Laramide stratigraphic development of the San Juan Basin. Laramide sediment-transport vectors within the San Juan Basin are relatively well understood, except for those of the Nacimiento and Animas formations. Throughout most of the San Juan Basin of northwestern New Mexico and adjacent Colorado, these Paleocene units are mudstone-dominated fluvial successions intercalated between the lowermost Paleocene Kimbeto Member of the Ojo Alamo Sandstone and the basal strata of the lower Eocene San Jose Formation, both sandstone-dominated fluvial deposits. For the Nacimiento and Animas formations, we present a new lithostratigraphy that provides a basis for basin-scale interpretation of the Paleocene fluvial architecture using facies analysis, paleocurrent measurements, and 40Ar/ 39Ar sanidine age data. In contrast to the dominantly southerly or southeasterly paleoflow exhibited by the underlying Kimbeto Member and the overlying San Jose Formation, the Nacimiento and Animas formations exhibit evidence of diverse paleoflow. In the southern and western part of the basin during the Puercan, the lower part of the Nacimiento Formation was deposited by south- or southeast-flowing streams, similar to those of the underlying Kimbeto Member. This pattern of southeasterly paleoflow continued during the Torrejonian in the western part of the basin, within a southeast-prograding distributive fluvial system. By Torrejonian time, a major east-northeast–flowing fluvial system, herein termed the Tsosie paleoriver, had entered the southwestern part of the basin, and a switch to northerly paleoflow had occurred in the southern San Juan Basin. The reversal of paleoslope in the southern part of the San Juan Basin probably resulted from rapid subsidence in the northeast part of the basin during the early Paleocene. Continued Tiffanian-age southeastward progradation of the distributive fluvial system that headed in the western part of the basin pushed the Tsosie paleoriver beyond the present outcrop extent of the basin. In the eastern and northern parts of the San Juan Basin, paleoflow was generally toward the south throughout deposition of the Nacimiento and the Animas formations. An important exception is a newly discovered paleodrainage that exited the northeastern part of the basin, ∼15 km south of Dulce, New Mexico. There, an ∼130-m-thick Paleocene sandstone (herein informally termed the Wirt member of the Animas Formation) records a major east-flowing paleoriver system that aggraded within a broad paleovalley carved deeply into the Upper Cretaceous Lewis Shale. 40Ar/ 39Ar dating of detrital sanidine documents a maximum depositional age of 65.58 ± 0.10 Ma for the Wirt member. The detrital sanidine grains are indistinguishable in age and K/Ca values from sanidines of the Horseshoe ash (65.49 ± 0.06 Ma), which is exposed 10.5 m above the base of the Nacimiento Formation in the southwestern part of the basin. The Wirt member may represent the deposits of the Tsosie paleoriver where it exited eastward from the basin. Our study shows that the evolution of Paleocene fluvial systems in the San Juan Basin was complex and primarily responded to variations in subsidence-related sedimentary accommodation within the basin. 
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