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Herpetotherium cf. fugaxFossil, Metatherian
Dr. Inés Horovitz - University of California Los Angeles
S. Ladevèze, C. Argot, T.E. Macrini, T. Martin, J.J. Hooker, C. Kurz, C. de Muizon, and M.R. Sánchez-Villagra
Herpetotherium cf. fugax
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Museum für Naturkunde Berlin (MB.Ma.50672)

Image processing: Dr. Ted Macrini
Image processing: Dr. Jessie Maisano
Publication Date: 25 Aug 2008


The imagery on this page is the basis for a paper entitled The anatomy of Herpetotherium cf. fugax COPE, 1873, a metatherian from the Oligocene of North America, by I. Horovitz, S. Ladevèze, C. Argot, T.E. Macrini, T. Martin, J.J. Hooker, C. Kurz, C. de Muizon, and M.R. Sánchez-Villagra (2008, Palaeontographica Abteilung A 284:109-141). The Summary is as follows:

              The recent discovery of well preserved specimens of Herpetotherium cf. fugax Cope, 1873 in the        Early Oligocene White River Formation of Wyoming has allowed a better understanding of its        morphology, phylogenetic position, and locomotor adaptations. We describe in detail its enamel        microstructure, petrosal morphology, cranial endocast, and postcranial skeleton.

              The molar enamel consists of radial enamel with a thick layer of prismless external enamel which        represents the plesiomorphic marsupial condition. Prisms describe a single turn from 45° to 0°        inclination on their way from the enamel dentine junction (EDJ) to the outer enamel surface.        Interprismatic matrix is oriented perpendicular to the EDJ. Enamel tubules occur within the prisms.

              Many features of the auditory region of Herpetotherium highlight a close relationship with        Marsupialia (understood as the crown group within Metatheria) and some characters clearly        distinguish it from the ancestral condition of Marsupialia. The reconstruction of the osseous inner ear        shows that Herpetotherium has less cochlear turns (and therefore is more primitive) than the        hypothetical ancestor of Marsupialia. The bony labyrinth exhibits a peculiar feature of the lateral and        posterior semicircular canals that form a second crus commune, as in certain basal marsupials.

              The cranial endocast of Herpetotherium has relatively large olfactory bulb casts, relatively small        and lissencephalic cerebral hemisphere casts, a relatively large cerebellar cast, and relatively large        subarcuate fossae suggesting presence of large paraflocculi. It is unclear if a rhinal fissure was        present on the endocast because the lateral surfaces are incomplete. Herpetotherium has a small        endocranial volume relative to skull length in comparison to extant marsupials.

              The articular relationship of astragalus and calcaneum is more primitive than in living marsupials,        with the sustentacular facet of the calcaneum directed practically medially in its anterior end as in        other basal metatherians excluded from crown group Marsupialia. In the latter, in contrast, this facet        presents the derived condition of being directed dorsally.

              The morphology of the hind limb suggests terrestrial locomotor habits. Some of these characters        are a deep intertrochanteric fossa, a femur that is almost as deep as it is wide in its distal end, a        sharp tibial crest, and a rather sagittally restricted upper ankle joint.

About the Species

This specimen was collected 18.4 meters above the Chadronian/Orellan North American Land Mammal Age Boundary (Eocene/Oligocene boundary), section 33, Township 32 North, Range 70 West in Wyoming. It was scanned using a Micro-CT-Scan RayScan 200 at the Fachhochschule Aalen, Arbeitsgruppe Metallguss, Germany. It was made available to DigiMorph by Dr. Ted Macrini of the American Museum of Natural History. Funding for additional image processing was provided by a National Science Foundation Digital Libraries Initiative grant to Dr. Timothy Rowe of The University of Texas at Austin. Endocast image processing by Ted Macrini and petrosal image processing by Thomas Schmelzle (Munich) and Sandrine Ladevèze (see Additional Imagery).

About this Specimen

The specimen was scanned using a Micro-CT-Scan RayScan 200 at the Fachhochschule Aalen, Arbeitsgruppe Metallguss, Germany. The interslice spacing is approximately 0.03197 mm and the interpixel spacing is 0.0331 mm.

About the


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& Links
Endocast roll movie

Click on the thumbnail to the left for a roll animation (2.0 mb) of the isolated Herpetotherium cranial endocast.

endocast yaw movie

Click on the thumbnail to the left for a yaw animation (1.4 mb) of the isolated Herpetotherium cranial endocast.

petrosal roll movie

Click on the thumbnail to the left for a roll animation (2.0 mb) of the petrosal of Herpetotherium.

petrosal pitch movie

Click on the thumbnail to the left for a pitch animation (1.3 mb) of the petrosal of Herpetotherium.


To cite this page: Dr. Inés Horovitz, S. Ladevèze, C. Argot, T.E. Macrini, T. Martin, J.J. Hooker, C. Kurz, C. de Muizon, and M.R. Sánchez-Villagra, 2008, "Herpetotherium cf. fugax" (On-line), Digital Morphology. Accessed October 22, 2014 at http://digimorph.org/specimens/Herpetotherium_fugax/.

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