Monotremes as Pretribosphenic Mammals

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An abundance of evidence points to the conclusion that monotremes are phyletically allied with pretribosphenic, rather than with tribosphenic, mammals. Monotremes do not have a tribosphenic dentition. Character analyses that apply tribosphenic cusp terminology to monotreme dentitions are implicitly limited thereby. A review of the molar dentition of living and fossil monotremes suggests that upper molars are composed of a strongly developed pretribosphenic paracone and metacone and a series of stylar cusps attached to them in a bicrescentic, or dilambdodont, fashion. The lower molars are composed of a trigonid, with a pretribosphenic protoconid, paraconid, and metaconid, and distal metacristid. The paraconid of m1 is reduced or lost. The talonid is composed of the pretribosphenic hypoconid, hypoconulid, and cristid obliqua. There is no evidence for a tribosphenic entoconid, nor for a talonid basin. There was no tribosphenic protocone. Monotremes are not related to other taxa included in Australosphenida. The dentition of Cretaceous taxa, such as Teinolophos and Steropodon, apparently still functioned by orthal mechanisms, whereas by the “medial” Paleocene (Monotrematum) and later (Obdurodon), monotremes appear to have accommodated a diet of soft-bodied organisms that left little trace of a mastication regime that had changed to apical wear via propalinal motion. Monotremes appear to be modern representatives of a Mesozoic radiation of pretribosphenic mammals centered largely in Gondwana, where they still reside today.

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