Understanding Variation in Body Shape and Size in Extinct and Unusual Mammals – #365papers – 4

Gaudin and Lyon, 2017, Cranial osteology of the pampathere Holmesina floridanus (Xenarthra: Cingulata; Blanca NALMA), including a description of an isolated petrosal bone: PeerJ 5:e4022; DOI 10.7717/peerj.4022

What’s it about?

This paper is a detailed description of several fossil skulls of the Holmesina floridanus, a pampathere that once lived in Florida. These skulls are then compared with other species of Holmesina from North and South America, and to skulls of other pampatheres.

Why does it matter?

There are two reasons why this is interesting.

1) Pampatheres are closely related to modern armadillos. They were larger than modern armadillos, and had a strictly herbivorous diet (unlike the omnivory of armadillos). It’s interesting to try to understand how these animals lived and why they are now extinct.

2) In this case, there are multiple well-preserved skulls. Through study of these skulls, one can better understand the subtle differences among individuals which will help paleontologists assess the differences in size and shape in other species and determine where this variation is sufficient for defining new species.

Why did I read this?

I have a special place in my heart for xenarthrans (the group of mammals that include armadillos and sloths). I won’t turn down a chance to read more about them.

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