Conference Paper

New Approaches to the Analysis of Eocene Bat Teeth: Identifying Hidden Diversity in the Messel Bat Fauna

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Abstract

The Grube Messel in Germany (middle Eocene) is a unique and spectacular locality for fossil bats. Messel bat specimens are remarkably abundant (>700 individuals known) and are typically represented by complete ornearly complete skeletons. The most common taxon by far of the four bat genera known from Messel isPalaeochiropteryx. This taxon is represented by the largest number of individuals and shows the most variability in body size and proportions. Recently, many exceptionally small specimens of Palaeochiropteryx have been found, suggesting the existence of at least one more “hidden” species besides the two already known (P. tupaiodon and P. spiegeli). Variation in dental morphology is a useful taxonomic indicator, however, until now it was not possible to easily examine teeth with conventional methods or to differentiate the two known species based on teeth because,dentitions are often in occlusion or are hidden by the plate itself. We addressed this problem with the help of highresolution micro-CT technology. CT scanning allows visualization of not only whole tooth surfaces but also their internal structures, which can be helpful for determining cusp homologies. Based on CT scans of Messel specimens of Paleochiropteryx, we have developed differential diagnoses for three species of Palaeochiropteryx based on dental structures. Until now it has been assumed that seven bat species existed at Messel, each filling a specific ecological role. The occurrence of an additional, small species of Palaeochiropteryx suggests that habitat utilization by Messel bats was more complex than previously thought.

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... Phylogenetic analyses of the early Eocene bat families Onychonycteridae, Icaronycteridae, Archaeonycteridae, Hassianycteridae, and Palaeochiropterygidae, to each other and to modern bats, have been based on complete but flattened specimens that preserve skeletal and soft tissue features but few available dental characters (Simmons and Geisler 1998;Simmons et al. 2008). Three dimensional reconstructions and high-resolution x-rays and microCT scans are providing new information about previously well-studied specimens (e.g., Simmons et al. 2010) including details of the dentition (e.g., Gunnell et al. 2011;Engels et al. 2013). O'Leary et al. (2013) included data of this kind for two of the oldest, best preserved fossil bats, the early Eocene North American (Wa7; 53 Ma) Icaronycteris index and Onychonycteris finneyi, in a comprehensive phylogenetic analysis of placental mammals. ...
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A new early Eocene bat species is described from the Paris Basin locality of Pourcy (Marne), which is thought to represent either MP7 (early Ypresian; earliest Eocene) or MP8+9 (middle Ypresian; later early Eocene) in the European Paleogene mammal chronostratigraphic scale. It is the first bat described from the Pourcy locality, and one of the world’s oldest chiropterans. The new bat shares a number of archaic dental features found in other early bats, but also exhibits several traits that appear derived and suggest referral to the family Onychonycteridae. Onychonycterids are restricted to the Ypresian of France, Belgium, England, and the USA, and include the most skeletally primitive of bats. Onychonycterids lived alongside bats that exhibit adaptations for more advanced flight capabilities but which had dentitions that were somewhat more similar to those of ancestral placental mammals. The new bat species from Pourcy, together with other Ypresian chiropterans, illustrates the mosaic nature of bat evolution in the early Eocene.
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