First apatemyid skeleton from the lower Eocene Fossil Butte Member, Wyoming (USA), compared to the European apatemyid from Messel, Germany

Wighart V. Kenigswald, Kenneth D. Rose, Lance Grande, Robert D. Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

An almost complete articulated skeleton of Apatemys chardini is described from the Fossil Butte Member (Green River Formation, uppermost lower Eocene, Late Wasatchian NALMA, Lostcabinian subagc), in southwestern Wyoming. The animal has a head-and-body length of about 15 cm and a tail length of 21 cm. It shows clear adaptations for arboreal habits. The hands are highly specialized, with elongated digits II and III suited for extracting wood-boring insects from bark and crevices. Apatemys shows a close relationship to the European Heterohyus from Messel, which is a few million years younger and shows a somewhat higher degree of specialization in the hand structure. Close similarities in the highly specialized dentition and the elongation of the same fingers indicate that the apatemyids from North America and Europe shared the same dietary adaptation for feeding on wood-boring larvae, exploiting an ecological niche now occupied by woodpeckers in most parts of the world. Among extant mammals only the marsupial Dactylopsila in New Guinea and northeastern Australia and the lemur Daubentonia in Madagascar forage in this way.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)149-169
Number of pages21
JournalPalaeontographica, Abteilung A: Palaozoologie - Stratigraphie
Volume272
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Stratigraphy
  • Palaeontology

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