Adelobasileus restored: NOT ‘the oldest mammal’

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’. 

Figure 1. Adelobasileus restored like Therioherpeton after first nesting together in the LRT.

Figure 1. Adelobasileus restored like Therioherpeton after first nesting together in the LRT. Line drawing for Adelobasileus from Lucas and Luo 1993.

By contrast
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.

Therioherpeton
Fig. 1) was originally described by Bonaparte and Barberena 1975 as ‘a possible mammal ancestor’.

Later
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.

Figure 1. Megazostrodon skull in several views. Drawings from Gow 1986. Colors applied here.

Figure 2. Megazostrodon skull in several views. Drawings from Gow 1986. Colors applied here. This is the last common ancestor of all mammals in the LRT.

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.

Figure x. Subset of the LRT focusing on therapsids, like Repenomamus, leading to mammals.

Figure x. Subset of the LRT focusing on therapsids leading to mammals. Adelobasileus nests with Therioherpeton in this older cladogram that does not list Adelobasileus.

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).

Figure 3. Click to enlarge. Stem mammal cladogram from King and Beck 2020 showing how different their topology is to the LRT (color overlays, key at left) which has a wider gamut of included taxa. Arrow points to Adelobasileus near top.

Figure 3. Click to enlarge. Stem mammal cladogram from King and Beck 2020 showing how different their topology is to the LRT (color overlays, key at left) which has a wider gamut of included taxa. Arrow points to Adelobasileus near top.

Add taxa 
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.’


References
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.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2020.0943
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.

http://reptileevolution.com/sinoconodon.htm
wiki/Adelobasileus
wiki/Therioherpeton

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