Abstract

The skull of the Miocene Yarala burchfieldi Muirhead and Filan, 1995, is described. Analysis of skull morphology supports phylogenetic conclusions based on dental morphology. Y. burchfieldi shares a number of synapomorphies with other peramelemorphians, some of which are unique and help to define this order of marsupials. Y. burchfieldi is the most plesiomorphic peramelemorphian known. Although sharing some derived characters with a number of extant taxa, Y. burchfieldi lacks synapomorphies that unite all other peramelemorphian taxa as the Superfamily Perameloidea. The Yaraloidea and Yaralidae, a new superfamily and family of peramelemorphians, is proposed and diagnosed on the basis of Y. burchfieldi. Fossil evidence supports the late divergence of perameloids, while peramelemorphian diversity in the Tertiary indicates an ancient derivation for the order.

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