First Record of Postcranial Bones in Devinophoca emryi (Carnivora, Phocidae, Devinophocinae)

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Abstract

The Devinophoca emryi material from the early Badenian, early Middle Miocene (16.26–14.89 Ma) presents mixed cranial and especially postcranial characters with the three extant phocid subfamilies (Cystophorinae, Monachinae and Phocinae), as well as unique postcranial characters not seen in any taxa. These distinguishing characters (i. e. well-outlined, large oval facet on greater tubercle of humerus; broader width between the head and lesser tubercle of humerus; femoral proximal epiphysis larger than distal; thin innominate ilium that is excavated on ventral surface) demonstrate that this material belongs to a recently described species (D. emryi). During ecomorphotype analyses, fossil humerus and femur bones were directly associated with their corresponding mandible to reveal associations based on Recent morphological analogues. Strong correlation between ecomorphotypes and postcranial morphology supports placement of this material to D. emryi and not its sister taxon, D. claytoni. The previously described skull, mandible and teeth and postcranial bones described herein were discovered at the same locality during excavations at the base of the Malé Karpaty Mountains (Slovakia), at the junction of the Morava and Danube rivers. The geological age of D. emryi and the presence of mixed characters strongly suggest that this species was an early relative to the ancestor of seals, possibly being a terminal branch of the phocid tree. This material allows for emended diagnoses of the species, updated assessments of geographical distribution and provides further material for clarification of controversial phylogenetic relationships in Phocidae.

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