Article: A spalacolestine spalacotheriid (Mammalia, Trechnotheria) from the Early Cretaceous (Barremian) of southern England and its bearing on spalacotheriid evolution
Steven C. Sweetman
Bulk screening of Early Cretaceous (Barremian) Wealden Group strata of the Wessex Formation exposed on the south-west and south-east coasts of the Isle of Wight, southern England, has resulted in the recovery of fragmentary remains pertaining to a new spalacolestine spalacotheriid mammal, Yaverlestes gassoni gen. et sp. nov. These represent the first European record of the Spalacolestinae. The remains comprise a dentulous incomplete dentary and isolated upper and lower molariforms, the former representing the most substantial mammal remains yet recovered from the Wealden Group. Hitherto, six species of spalacotheriid mammal were known from the Lower Cretaceous of Europe. All are referred to the genus Spalacotherium but in the case of taxa diagnosed on the basis of isolated lower teeth and other specimens where the post-canine dentition is incompletely known, it is now evident that these referrals should be treated with caution. Furthermore, the new Wessex Formation spalacotheriid and recently described spalacotheriids from the ?Barremian of Japan, and the Barremian and Aptian of China exhibit combinations of characters that suggest that spalacotheriids were more diverse and that their evolution was more complex than previously recognized. The systematic position of an isolated tooth from the basal Cretaceous Lourinhã Formation of Portugal is discussed and the tooth reassigned to the Spalacotheriidae. Together with the new Wessex Formation taxon, eight species are now known from the Lower Cretaceous of Europe. The discovery of a spalacolestine in the Barremian Wessex Formation supports the concept of faunal interchange between Europe, Asia and North America during the Early Cretaceous. It also supports derivation of North American spalacotheriids from a European or Eurasian ancestor.