An Early Miocene microtoid cricetid rodent from the Junggar Basin of Xinjiang, China
Microtoid cricetids are widely considered to be the ancestral form of arvicoline rodents, a successful rodent group including voles, lemmings and muskrats. The oldest previously known microtoid cricetid is Microtocricetus molassicus from the Late Miocene (MN9, ca. 10–11 Ma) of Europe. Here, we report a new microtoid cricetid, Primoprismus fejfari gen. et sp. nov., from the Junggar Basin of Xinjiang, northwestern China. The rodent assemblage found in association with this specimen indicates a late Early Miocene age, roughly estimated at 18–17 Ma, and thus more than 6 million years older than M. molassicus. While morphological comparisons suggest that the new taxon is most closely related to M. molassicus, it differs from the latter in a striking combination of primitive characters, including a lower crown, smaller size, a differentiated posterolophid and hypolophid, a faint anterolophid, the absence of an ectolophid, and the presence of a stylid on the labial border of the tooth. Arid conditions prevailing across the mid−latitude interior of Eurasia during the Early Miocene, enhanced by the combined effects of the Tibetan uplift and the gradual retreat of the Tethys Ocean, likely played a role in the appearance of grasslands, which in turn triggered the evolution of microtoid cricetids and, ultimately, the origin of arvicoline rodents.
Key words: Mammalia, Rodentia, Cricetidae, Arvicolinae, Miocene, Junggar, China, Central Asia.
Olivier Maridet [firstname.lastname@example.org], Wenyu Wu [email@example.com], Jie Ye [firstname.lastname@example.org], Shundong Bi [email@example.com] and Xijun Ni [firstname.lastname@example.org] corresponding author, Key Laboratory of Evolutionary Systematics of Vertebrates, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences Beijing 100044, P.R. China; Jin Meng [email@example.com], Division of Paleontology, American Museum of Natural History, History, Central Park West at 79th Street, New York, NY 10024, USA.