When Lucas and Hunt 1990
and Lucas and Luo 1993 described the cranium (all that is known) of Adelobasileus (Fig. 1) they concluded it was, ‘the oldest mammal’.
the large reptile tree (LRT, 1707+ taxa, subset Fig. x) nests Adelobasileus with the low and wide mammal-mimic cynodont, Therioherpeton (Fig. 1), despite the very few characters that could be scored here. Both also nest with Sinocodon and Haramiyavia in the LRT. Thus Adelobasileus in not the oldest mammal. It is not even a mammal.
Fig. 1) was originally described by Bonaparte and Barberena 1975 as ‘a possible mammal ancestor’.
Oliveira 2006 reevaluated Therioherpeton. “Therioherpetidae are distinguished from all other probainognathians by upper teeth with the imbrication angle increasing in the posterior postcanines. In addition, upper and lower postcanine teeth are labio-lingually narrow.” This author did not include Adelobasileus in his cladogram. Oliveira nested Therioherpeton with Riograndia.
The last common ancestor of all mammals
in the LRT (subset Fig. x) continues to be Megazostrodon (Fig. 2), from the early Jurassic. Other, more derived mammals, like Morganucodon, are found in the Late Triassic, indicating an earlier origin and radiation.
The most recent paper on basal mammals
and their immediate ancestors, King and Beck 2020, shows just how different cladograms can be when taxa are excluded (Fig. 3, click to enlarge). King and Beck mix non-mammals with prototherians, metatherians and eutherians in a mish-mash as compared to the LRT (Fig. x). At least they nest Adelobasileus outside their Mammalia (which should include only Prototherians, Metatherians and all descendants of their last common ancestor, Megazostrodon, Fig. 2).
and multituberculates nest with rodents and other taxa nest appropriately with prototherians, metatherians and eutherians as shown in the LRT (subset Fig. x).
The nesting of Adeolbasileus with Therioherpeton
is not quite an original hypotheses. Google the two keywords, “Adelobasileus, Therioherpeton” and you’ll find someone tweeted these two as possible ancestor-descendant taxa, but unfortunately, still considered Adelobasilesus ‘the oldest mammal.’
Bonaparte JF and Barberena MC 1975. A possible mammalian ancestor from the Middle Triassic of Brazil (Therapsida–Cynodontia). Journal of Paleontology 49:931–936.
King and Beck 2020. Tip dating supports novel resolutions of controversial relationships among early mammals. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 287: 20200943.
Lucas SG and Hunt 1990. The oldest mammal. New Mexico Journal of Science 30(1):41–49.
Lucas SG and Luo Z 1993. Adelobasileus from the upper Triassic of west Texas: the oldest mammal. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 13(3):309–334.
Oliveira EV 2006. Reevaluation of Therioherpeton cargnini Bonaparte & Barberena, 1975 (Probainognathia, Therioherpetidae) from the Upper Triassic of Brazil. Geodiversitas 28 (3): 447-465.