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Oligocene - Oligopetes: A Rodent

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  • Neal Robbins
                  Oligopetes was a genus of rodents that lived during the Oligocene. The systematic paleontology of Oligopetes is:   Mammalia Linnaeus
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 1, 2009
          Oligopetes was a genus of rodents that lived during the Oligocene. The systematic paleontology of Oligopetes is:
      Mammalia Linnaeus 1758
      Rodentia Bowditch 1821
      Aplodontidae Brandt 1855
      Oligopetes Hessig 1979
          Oligopetes is very closely related to the living rodent Aplodontia rufa, which is native to North America. Both are in the family Aplodontidae. Aplodontia rufa is the only living member of Aplodontidae. This family had a much wider distribution in the past than it does now. It was in Europe and Asia, but went extinct on those continents.
          Fossil remains of Oligopetes lophulus have been found at Olalla 4A in Aragon, Spain. They are date to an Oligocene interval of 33.9 - 28.4 million years ago. [Note - The source of this information is The Paleobiology Database.] Remains of this species were also discovered at Kavakdere in Turkey. The strata in which they were unearthed is dated to a span of 33.9 - 23.03 million years ago, which is Oligocene. [Note - Fossil remains of the species Oligopetes obtusus were also found at this locale.] Oligopetes remains have also been found in Europe. They are dated to an interval of 33.9 - 28.4 million years ago (MP 22).
          Robert J. Emry and William W. Korth wrote an article titled A NEW SPECIES OF SQUIRREL (RODENTIA, SCIURIDAE) FROM THE MID-CENOZOIC OF NORTH AMERICA. It was published in 2007 in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 27(3): 693-698. This quote from the abstract says:
      A new genus of sciurid, Hesperopetes, contains three species: H. thoringtoni (type species), H. jamesi, and H. blacki. H. thoringtoni is from the early Chadronian (late Eocene) White River Formation of central Wyoming and represents the earliest recognized species of sciurid. The other species are from the latest Whitneyan or earliest Arikareean (late Oligocene) Blue Ash local fauna of South Dakota. Hesperopetes is closest in dental morphology to Oligopetes, which is only known from the early Oligocene of Europe. Hesperopetes may also represent the earliest occurrence of a lineage leading to pteromyine sciurids ("flying" squirrels). It is impossible at this time to construct a phylogeny of North American "flying" squirrels due to their scarcity in the fossil record and their undetermined relationships with Old World taxa.
          Based upon the fossil record, the family Sciuridae (squirrels) is believed to have diverged from the Aplodontidae rodent family in the middle or late Eocene. The dental similarities of Hesperopetes and Oligopetes show a connection between the two families.
          Neal Robbins

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