Zhailimeryx, A New Lophiomerycid Artiodactyl (Mammalia) from the Late Middle Eocene of Central China and the Early Evolution of Ruminants

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A new genus and species of primitive selenodont artiodactyl, Zhailimeryx jingweni, occurs in the late middle Eocene Zhaili Member of the Heti Formation, Yuanqu Basin, Shanxi Province, China. A phylogenetic analysis of dental characters suggests that Zhailimeryx is closely related to Lophiomeryx and other lophiomerycid ruminants of Asia and Europe. Zhailimeryx and other Eocene records of Lophiomerycidae from Asia support an Asian origin for this family, followed by dispersal into Europe both before and after the Grande Coupure. Morphological evidence from Zhailimeryx suggests that ruminant artiodactyls had already undergone substantial diversification prior to the late middle Eocene, and it reopens the issue of whether the higher taxa Tragulina and Pecora are valid expressions of ruminant phylogeny.

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