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Necrolestes patagonensis

Necrolestes patagonensis ("Grave Robber" or "Thief of the Dead") is an extinct species of non-therian mammal, which lived during the early Miocene in what is now Argentine Patagonia.

The type species was named by Florentino Ameghino in 1891 based on remains found by his brother, Carlos Ameghino in Patagonia.


Lower jaw

About one-third of the skeleton of N. patagonensis—including most of the skull— has been found as disassociated bones of several individuals. The jaw bends up at the tip, possibly supporting a fleshy appendage similar to the sensitive tentacles of the star-nosed mole. Necrolestes is also sometimes reconstructed as a mole-like creature. It probably fed on insects or worms.[1]


Its classification is not firmly resolved due to it being highly apomorphic and having an anatomy unlike any other known mammal, living or extinct. It was thought to be a therian mammal, but neither its classification as a member of the marsupial lineage (Metatheria) nor as a member of Eutheria could have been ruled out based on the available data, given as how, even as an island, South America had extensive lineages of both marsupial and placental mammals. Phylogenetic analyses conducted by Rougier et al. (2012), Chimento, Agnolin and Novas (2012) and Averianov, Martin and Lopatin (2013) recovered Necrolestes in an unexpected phylogenetic position as a non-therian mammal that belonged to the clade Meridiolestida;[2][3][4] if confirmed this would make Necrolestes the youngest known member of the group. Within Meridiolestida, Rougier et al. (2012) found Necrolestes to be particularly closely related to the genera Cronopio and Leonardus;[2] Chimento et al. (2012) found it to be in unresolved polytomy with Cronopio, Leonardus and the clade containing all other meridiolestidans[3] while Averianov et al. (2013) recovered Cronopio, Necrolestes and Leonardus as forming a grade at the base of Meridiolestida rather than a clade.[4] Meridiolestidans themselves were initially classified as member of the clade Dryolestida;[5] this result was confirmed by the analysis of Chimento et al. (2012),[3] while Rougier et al. (2012) recovered them as slightly more closely related to the placental mammals, marsupials and amphitheriids than the members of Dryolestida were,[2] and Averianov, Martin and Lopatin (2013) recovered meridiolestidans as the sister group of spalacotheriid "symmetrodonts".[4]


This cladogram follows the paper of Rougier, Wible, Beck and Apesteguía of 2012:[2]










  1. ^ Palmer, D., ed. (1999). The Marshall Illustrated Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals. London: Marshall Editions. p. 204. ISBN 1-84028-152-9. 
  2. ^ a b c d Guillermo W. Rougier, John R. Wible, Robin M. D. Beck and Sebastian Apesteguía (2012). "The Miocene mammal Necrolestes demonstrates the survival of a Mesozoic nontherian lineage into the late Cenozoic of South America". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 109 (49): 20053–20058. doi:10.1073/pnas.1212997109. 
  3. ^ a b c Nicolás R. Chimento, Federico L. Agnolin and Fernando E. Novas (2012). "The Patagonian fossil mammal Necrolestes: a Neogene survivor of Dryolestoidea". Revista del Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales, nueva serie 14 (2): 261–306. 
  4. ^ a b c Alexander O. Averianov, Thomas Martin and Alexey V. Lopatin (2013). "A new phylogeny for basal Trechnotheria and Cladotheria and affinities of South American endemic Late Cretaceous mammals". Naturwissenschaften 100 (4): 311–326. doi:10.1007/s00114-013-1028-3. 
  5. ^ Guillermo W. Rougier, Sebastián Apesteguía and Leandro C. Gaetano (2011). "Highly specialized mammalian skulls from the Late Cretaceous of South America". Nature 479: 98–102. doi:10.1038/nature10591.  Supplementary information


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