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A small-bodied species of Brontotheriidae from the middle Eocene Nut Beds of the Clarno Formation, John Day Basin, Oregon

  • Matthew C. Mihlbachler (a1) (a2) and Joshua X. Samuels (a3)

We diagnose a new species of Brontotheriidae from a middle Eocene locality, the Clarno Nut Beds, from the Clarno Formation, John Day Basin, Central Oregon. Though renowned for its richness in fossil flora, fossil vertebrates are rare in the Clarno Nut Beds and this new species is the most abundantly represented mammal. Radiometric dating constrains the age of the Nut Beds fauna to about 43.76 Ma within the Uintan North American Land Mammal Age. This new taxon, represented by numerous cranial, mandibular, and dental specimens, is comparatively small for a brontothere and notable for its cranio-caudally shorted nasal incision, a trait shared with three larger-bodied middle Eocene species, Metatelmatherium ultimum, Wickia brevirhinus, and Sthenodectes incisivum. Phylogenetic analysis suggests the sister taxon of the Nut Beds brontothere could be one of two species—Wickia brevirhinus from the Sand Wash Basin of Colorado and Washakie Formation of Wyoming, or Metatelmatherium ultimum, a pan-Beringian species known from the Uintan Formation of Utah (and other Uintan age deposits) and the “Irdin Manha” Formation of Inner Mongolia, China. Phylogenetic results also indicate that the Nut Beds brontothere is a dwarf taxon. Though brontotheres are renowned for having evolved very large body sizes, this new brontothere is one of several discovered in recent decades that suggest evolutionary reductions in body size may have been relatively common in Brontotheriidae.

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