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The first fossil skull of an anteater (Vermilingua, Myrmecophagidae) from northern South America, a taxonomic reassessment of Neotamandua and a discussion of the myrmecophagid diversification

By Kevin Jiménez-Lara, Jhon González

Posted 07 Oct 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/793307

The evolutionary history of the South American anteaters, Vermilingua, is incompletely known as consequence of the fragmentary and geographically biased nature of the fossil record of this group. Neotamandua borealis is the only recorded extinct species from northern South America, specifically from the Middle Miocene of La Venta area, southwestern Colombia. A new genus and species of myrmecophagid for La Venta, Gen. et sp. nov., is here described based on a new partial skull. Additionally, given that the co-occurrent species of Gen. et sp. nov., N. borealis , was originally referred to as Neotamandua , the taxonomic status of this genus is revised. The morphological and taxonomic analyses of these taxa indicate that Gen. et sp. nov. may be related to Tamandua and that the justification of the generic assignments of the species referred to as Neotamandua is weak or insufficient. Two species previously referred to as Neotamandua ( N. magna and N. ? australis ) were designated as species inquirendae and new diagnostic information for the redefined genus and its type species, N. conspicua , is provided. Together, these results suggest that the diversification of Myrmecophagidae was taxonomically and biogeographically more complex than what has been proposed so far. Considering the new evidence, it is proposed a synthetic model on the diversification of these xenartrans during the late Cenozoic based on the probable relationships between their intrinsic ecological constraints and some major abiotic changes in the Americas.

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