Article: The origin of Afro-Arabian 'didelphimorph' marsupials
Jerry J. Hooker, Marcelo R. Sánchez-Villagra, Francisco J. Goin, Elwyn L. Simons, Yousry Attia and Erik R. Seiffert
New specimens of Peratherium africanum from Early Oligocene deposits of the Fayum, Egypt, provide key information on the relationships of the species. These include the first maxilla to be found and two additional dentaries. The maxilla can be demonstrated to belong to the same species as the holotype dentary by study of the occlusal relationships of upper and lower molars. It can be shown by several synapomorphies that P. africanum is the sister species to European Bartonian–Rupelian Peratherium lavergnense. P. africanum therefore belongs to the ‘didelphimorph’ family Herpetotheriidae, not to the peradectimorph family Peradectidae. The genus Qatranitherium, previously erected for this species alone, is here synonymized with Peratherium. Comparison with ‘didelphimorphian’ taxa from early Paleogene deposits of South America suggests more remote relationships, indicating an origin for P. africanum by dispersal from Europe as originally envisaged. The more precise relationships deduced here help to constrain the time interval for dispersal to Afro-Arabia, probably during the earliest Oligocene sea-level low.