Two more little whale ancestors

Updated Sept 04, 2016, replacing Onychodectes with Maelestes as the taxon list increases.

More heresy
Earlier the tiny tenrec, Hemicentetes, nested with wolf-sized Maiacetus, the land whale in the large reptile tree (731 taxa). Back then I promised to add Hippopotamus to the tree and I do so today. Among several other mammals, I also add two more that surprisingly happen to nest on the whale line, Leptictis and Maelestes (Fig. 1).

Figure 1. Whale ancestor skulls. Here Maelestes, Leptictis, Hemicentetes and Maiacetus demonstrate a gradual evolution of traits that cannot be improved by the traditional whale ancestor outgroup, Hippopotamus.

Figure 1. Whale ancestor skulls. Here Maelestes, Leptictis, Hemicentetes and Maiacetus demonstrate a gradual evolution of traits that cannot be improved by the traditional whale ancestor outgroup, Hippopotamus.

These nestings
(Fig. 2) are heretical. But they demonstrate a gradual accumulation of traits that the traditional and/or current best whale ancestor outgroup candidate Hippopotamus cannot match. DNA studies evidently send us down blind allies when it comes to distantly related taxa.

Figure 3. Subset of the LRT showing Maelestes nesting at the base of the tenrecs / whales between Asioryctes and Onychodectes.

Figure 3. Subset of the LRT showing Maelestes nesting at the base of the tenrecs / whales between Asioryctes and Onychodectes.

The tree topology has not changed yet
despite the many additions to the cladogram, both extinct and extant. A multituberculate, Rugosodon, and an apatemyid, Apatemys have been added. We’ll take a look at those and others soon.

I’m learning as I go
and learning that this tree does not match any prior and larger attempts at mapping mammal phylogeny. That’s too bad. It’s always better to confirm prior work. There will come a day when I will either recover a rearranged tree or I will be critical of prior work. In either case, there will be a reason why. At present all the puzzle pieces fit pretty well.

Tomorrow
yet another surprising whale ancestor puts a new twist on how cetacean swimming originated.

 

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