Petrosal anatomy of the Paleocene eutherian mammal Deltatherium fundaminis (Cope, 1881)

Sarah Shelley*, Ornella Bertrand, Steve Brusatte, Thomas E. Williamson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We describe the tympanic anatomy of the petrosal of Deltatherium fundaminis, an enigmatic Paleocene mammal based on cranial specimens recovered from New Mexico, U.S.A. Although the ear region of Deltatherium has previously been described, there has not been a comprehensive, well-illustrated contribution using current anatomical terminology. The dental and cranial anatomy of Deltatherium is a chimera, with morphological similarities to both ‘condylarth’ and ‘cimolestan’ taxa. As such, the phylogenetic relationships of this taxon have remained elusive since its discovery, and it has variably been associated with Arctocyonidae, Pantodonta and Tillodontia. The petrosal of Deltatherium is anteriorly bordered by an open space comprising a contiguous carotid opening and pyriform fenestra. The promontorium features both a small rostral tympanic process and small epitympanic wing but lacks well-marked sulci. A large ventral facing external aperture of the canaliculus cochleae is present and bordered posteriorly by a well-developed caudal tympanic process. The hiatus Fallopii opens on the ventral surface of the petrosal. The tegmen tympani is mediolaterally broad and anteriorly expanded, and its anterior margin is perforated by a foramen for the ramus superior of the stapedial artery. The tympanohyal is small but approximates the caudal tympanic process to nearly enclose the stylomastoid notch. The mastoid is widely exposed on the basicranium and bears an enlarged mastoid process, separate from the paraoccipital process. These new observations provide novel anatomical data corroborating previous hypotheses regarding the plesiomorphic eutherian condition but also reveal subtle differences among Paleocene eutherians that have the potential to help inform the phylogeny of Deltatherium.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Mammalian Evolution
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2021


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