Saturday, 26 July 2014

A new species of Early Eocene Artiodactyl named after Lady Gaga.

The Artiodactyls (even-hooved Mammals) are the most successful group of large Mammalian herbivores in modern environments, comprising Antelopes, Deer, Cattle, Sheep and Goats, Musk-oxen, Giraffes, Camels, Pigs, Hippopotamuses, as well as (surprisingly) Whales and Dolphins. They first appear in the fossil record in the Early Eocene in North America, rapidly diverging into a variety of forms around the Early Eocene Thermal Maximum.

In a paper published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology on 6 May 2014, Richard Stucky of the Department of Earth Sciences at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and Herbert Covert of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, describe a new species of Artiodactyl from the Early Eocene Wasatch Formation near Bitter Creek in Sweetwater County, Wyoming.

The new species is named Gagadon minimonstrum, where ‘Gaga-’ honours the popular singer Lady Gaga and ‘-don’ means ‘tooth’, and ‘minimonstrum’ means ‘small monster’; a reference to the small size and surprising dentition of the specimen. The species is described from a single right lower jaw and several detached teeth. 

The left dentary of Gagadon minimonstrum. Stucky & Covert (2014).

The Early Eocene Mammal fossils of the Bitter Creek area are well known, and while the sites in the area still produce many fossils, the discovery of new species is now somewhat of a rare event. Gagadon minimonstrum is thought to be a member of the Homacodontids, one of three early Artiodactyl groups found in these deposits, which are known from the Wind River and Green River Basins. The Homacodontids become more abundant in the Middle Eocene, and are probably related to the later Selenodonts.

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