Abstract

Simojovelhyus pocitosense is based on a lower jaw fragment with three molars from the late Oligocene amber mine deposits near the village of Simojovel, Chiapas Province, Mexico. It is the oldest fossil mammal known from Central America. It was described by Ferrusquia-Villafranca in 2006 as a helohyid, a group of primitive artiodactyls known from the Bridgerian and Uintan (older than 49–42 Ma), yet it comes from early Arikareean deposits about 25–27 Ma, suggesting that it was a very late helohyid living more than 10 m.y. after their apparent Uintan extinction. We re-examined the specimen, and compared it to the large collection of recently described peccaries from the Chadronian (Perchoerus minor) and Orellan (Perchoerus nanus) and Bridgerian helohyids (Helohyus sp.). Once the range of variation of characters in helohyids and peccaries is accounted for, Simojovelhyus shows derived similarities to early peccaries, especially in the bunodont molars with inflated cusps and the configuration of cristids and accessory cuspulids, and none of the incipient lophodonty and primitive morphology seen in helohyids. In fact, the only real similarity other than symplesiomorphies between Simojovelhyus and helohyids is its small size, but it is close to the size range of the tiny Chadronian peccary P. minor. Thus, based on both derived tooth characters and its age, it is much more parsimonious to regard Simojovelhyus as a tiny Mexican peccary from the Arikareean, not a very late helohyid. This removes the anomalously late occurrence of helohyids from the mammalian fossil record, and forces a re-examination of our view of mammalian evolution in Central America.

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