Abstract

A new species of protocetid archaeocete, Eocetus wardii n. sp., is named based on material from the late Lutetian (middle Eocene, 43-44 Ma) Comfort Member of the Castle Hayne Formation, North Carolina. This material includes portions of the skull, thoracic, lumbar and caudal vertebrae, ribs, and the right innominate. The innominate (pelvis exclusive of the sacral vertebrae) has some characters in common with the innominata of other protocetids, including sufficient size to support a weight-bearing hind limb. This suggests that Eocetus wardii was capable of both terrestrial and aquatic locomotion. The innominate also includes some features in common with basilosaurid archaeocetes including a shift in the relative positions of the pubis and obturator foramen. In addition, the bone histology of Eocetus is found to be very different from that of other archaeocetes and sirenians (sea cows and dugongs). The ribs and vertebrae are composed of a central area of trabecular bone enveloped by layers of dense cortical bone. Eocetus has previously only been known from a few specimens from Gebel Mokattam near Cairo, Egypt. This identification makes Eocetus the only protocetid archaeocete genus known from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

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