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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1995 Nov 7;92(23):10718-22.

The hypocone as a key innovation in mammalian evolution.

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  • 1Department of Anatomical Sciences, State University of New York, Stony Brook 11794-8081, USA.


The hypocone, a cusp added to the primitively triangular upper molar teeth of therian mammals, has evolved convergently > 20 times among mammals during the Cenozoic. Acquisition of the hypocone itself involves little phenotypic change, but subsequent diversification of groups possessing the hypocone may be greatly enhanced. Our analysis of the Cenozoic mammalian radiations, including the Recent fauna, shows that high species diversity of mammals with hypocones and association of the hypocone with herbivory strongly support recognition of the hypocone as a key innovation that has allowed invasion of, and diversification within, herbivorous adaptive zones. In contrast, mammals lacking hypocones show no marked increase in species diversity during the Cenozoic.

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