Apatemyids have been preserved for tens of millions of years and are well known from Europe and North America.
The skeletons analyzed in the publication were recovered from freshwater limestone in the Bighorn Basin by co-author Peter Houde of New Mexico State University. Located just east of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, the site is known as one of the best in the world for studying the evolution of mammals during the 10 million years following the extinction of the dinosaurs, Bloch said.
Mary Silcox, first author of the study and a research associate at the Florida Museum, said scans of the specimens began about 10 years ago, during her postdoctoral work at The Pennsylvania State University.
"It's not like medical CT, it's actually an industrial CT scanner," said Silcox, an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Toronto Scarborough. "Because this is a small animal, we needed to be able to study it at a very high resolution. The high resolution CT data were a critical part."
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Doug Boyer of Stony Brook University is also a co-author of the study, part of the team's larger research to understand the relationships of apatemyids to other mammals. Bloch and colleagues are currently writing a detailed analysis of L. kayi's skeleton.
John Wible, curator of mammals at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and one of the researchers who reviewed the study, said it provides valuable information for understanding the evolutionary relationships of mammals.
"It is now clear that any assessment of the origins of primates in the future will have to include apatemyids," Wible said. "Apatemyids are not some freakish dead-end, but significant members of our own history."
|Contact: Jon Bloch|
University of Florida