Skeletal anatomy of the basicranium and auditory region in the metacheiromyid palaeanodont Metacheiromys (Mammalia, Pholidotamorpha) based on high-resolution CT scans


Cranial skeletal material of the Eocene palaeanodont Metacheiromys marshi was examined using high-resolution CT scans. The present study represents the first time that CT scans have been conducted on skulls of this extinct fossorial mammal. The bony osteology of the auditory region is described in detail, including the ectotympanic and entotympanic, the petrosal in both tympanic and endocranial views, and the middle ear ossicles. The results of this investigation confirm a number of derived resemblances between palaeanodonts and xenarthrans, including a large entotympanic element in the medial wall of the auditory bulla, the presence of an anteroventral process of the tegmen tympani, and a posttemporal canal. However, the present study also provides novel derived auditory features linking palaeanodonts and pangolins, consistent with current understanding of palaeanodont phylogenetic relationships, including the absence of an ectotympanic styliform process, a posterolaterally oriented aperture to the cochlear fossula, and a convex mallear head / concave incudal head. Several autapomorphic features characterizing the auditory osteology of Metacheiromys are also noted. The presence of a large, spherical mallear head, and of a capacious tympanic cavity extended into sinuses in surrounding bones, likely represent adaptations for fossoriality, consistent with palaeobiological inferences drawn from the postcranial anatomy of Metacheiromys.

Key words

Metacheiromys, Palaeanodonta, Pholidotamorpha, auditory region, osteology, skull, middle ear ossicles