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J Hum Evol. 2002 Sep;43(3):353-80.

Notharctine primates (Adapiformes) from the early to middle Eocene (Wasatchian-Bridgerian) of Wyoming: transitional species and the origins of Notharctus and Smilodectes.

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Museum of Paleontology, University of Michigan, 1109 Geddes Avenue, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-1079, USA.


Notharctine adapiform primates are an abundant element of early (Wasatchian) and middle (Bridgerian) Eocene faunal assemblages from the western interior of North America. Early Eocene notharctine samples are dominated by Cantius with Pelycodus and Copelemur being much rarer and more restricted in their geographic distribution. Cantius is replaced in the middle Eocene by Notharctus and Smilodectes, both of which are common but less widespread, being best known from southwestern Wyoming. The origin of these two middle Eocene taxa has not been well understood, due to a lack of transitional Wasatchian-Bridgerian notharctine faunal samples or because known samples had not been adequately studied. Field work at South Pass in the Greater Green River Basin has produced a relatively large sample of earliest Bridgerian notharctines. Combining this sample with a large, but previously under-studied, sample of notharctines from the latest Wasatchian and earliest Bridgerian in the Wind River Basin has clarified the relationships among Notharctus,Smilodectes, and earlier occurring notharctines. Notharctus first appears in the latest Wasatchian (Wa7), represented by N. venticolus. Phylogenetic analysis supports a Notharctus clade that shares sister taxon status with Cantius nunienus and indicates that Notharctus arose through bifurcation of the lineage containing the last common ancestor of C. nunienus and Notharctus. The origins of Smilodectes are less clear. Phylogenetic analysis supports a clade consisting of Smilodectes and Copelemur, but the origins of both taxa are not established as yet. North American notharctines are typified by relatively low taxonomic diversity, but relatively high abundance and high dental morphological variation (disparity). These attributes are opposite to those of North American omomyids, reflecting differences in ecomorphospace between these two primate radiations.

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