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Article: New observations and reinterpretation on the enigmatic taxon Colombitherium (?Pyrotheria, Mammalia) from Colombia

Publication: Palaeontology
Volume: 53
Part: 2
Publication Date: March 2010
Page(s): 319 325
Author(s): <p>Guillaume Billet, Ma&euml;va Orliac, Pierre-Olivier Antoine and Carlos Jaramillo</p>
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How to Cite

BILLET, G., ORLIAC, M., ANTOINE, P., JARAMILLO, C. 2010. New observations and reinterpretation on the enigmatic taxon Colombitherium (?Pyrotheria, Mammalia) from Colombia. Palaeontology53, 2, 319–325.

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The controversial taxon Colombitherium tolimense (Mammalia) (probably Late Eocene in age) from Colombia, although known for nearly 40 years, still bears much mystery. Aside from the problematic ordinal attribution of the holotype and only specimen, its determination as an upper or lower jaw remains a highly debated issue. New observations include the presence of a contact facet on the distal face of the most posterior tooth, which indicates that the fragmentary jaw preserves three premolars and two molars; the M3, unpreserved but present, being most probably reduced. This new interpretation completely fits the morphology of the teeth. Furthermore, the shape of these latter and the deeper wear encompassed by their lingual part relative to the labial one is typical of upper dentition. This is in agreement with the internal curving of the roots of the anterior premolars and with several other arguments that lead interpreting the holotype of C. tolimense as a maxillary bearing P2-M2. This new interpretation deepens the morphological gap between Colombitherium and other pyrotherians (except Proticia) and challenges further its referral to Pyrotheria. The peculiar morphology of Colombitherium relative to other pyrotherians is indeed striking. In fact, Colombitherium has nothing in common with pyrotherians but bilophodont cheek teeth, a feature largely widespread in placental mammals. It is here referred to ?Pyrotheria until additional evidence of its relationships is known. Associated with the putative removal of Proticia from Pyrotheria as argued by some authors, the hypothetical removal of Colombitherium from the order would adjust the widely accepted assumption that the pyrotherian bilophodont cheek teeth originated from bunodont cheek teeth. It would also make an origin from lophodont forms plausible. This in turn would have critical relevance, especially to the hypothesis that pyrotherians are notoungulates.

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