Paenungulate Fossils: Mammoths, Manatees & kin | Darwin and Wallace: A Nature & Fossil Store

Paenungulate Fossils: Mammoths, Manatees & kin


        The Paenungulates (meaning "near ungulates"), are a clade of herbivorous mammals that comprise the groups Proboscidea (elephants & kin), Hyracoidea (hyraxes), Sirenia (manatees & dugongs), and the extinct Embrithopods and Desmostylians. Embrithopods are a group of superficially rhino-like Paenungulates (with some even bearing keratinized skin-covered horns, such as the well-known Arsinoitherium), while Desmostylians are tusked, hippo-like creatures that are noted for being the only known order of marine mammals to have gone completely extinct. American paleontologist George Simpson had grouped the seemingly unlikely mammalian cousins into the superorder he called Paenungulata, basing this clade on morphological similarities, such as similar tooth structure and anteriorly facing eye orbits. Molecular evidence also supports this clade, as well as suggests a common ancestry dating back to the late Cretaceous period in Africa, approximately 67-80 million years ago. The earliest ancestor known for the Paenungulates suggest an origin based on a semi-aquatic lifestyle, with Sirenians and Desmostylians eventually evolving into fully marine forms. The hyraxes and Embrithopods appear to be the most basal of the five orders, with manatees and kin, Desmostylians, and elephants and kin being the most closely related. Today's Paenungulates still survive in Africa today, with some having spread to Asia, as well as the coasts of the Americas in the form of manatees. Paenungulates were once much more plentiful, with several prehistoric species reaching a global distribution, except for Australia and Antarctica.

Click on the images below to see the incredible fossils we offer in our Paenungulate selection: