Series: Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH Bulletins) Volume: 341
By: KP Aplin(Author), KM Helgen(Author)
Large collections of fragmentary animal bones excavated from archaeological contexts in East Timor between 1968 and 2002 provide new material referable to the recently extinct, gigantic murine genus Coryphomys. We document the upper and lower dentition and palatal anatomy of C. buehleri Schaub, 1937, and identify and name a second species of Coryphomys, based on differences in molar size and morphology and skeletal robusticity. Alternative interpretations of the observed morphological and metric variability (sexual dimorphism, resource-based polymorphism, sample heterochroneity) are each carefully assessed and rejected, and we conclude that the genus comprised two species of approximately similar body size. Preserved cranial elements of both species of Coryphomys feature a high degree of anatomical specialization, including an unusual elaboration of the maxillary sinus complex. Though the specialized anatomy of Coryphomys invites consideration of its phylogenetic relationships, this exercise is hindered by a demonstrable high level of homoplasy (i.e., multiple, independent evolutionary losses and gains) in many of the key craniodental features traditionally surveyed within Murinae, while other features are insufficiently well surveyed for broad-scale analysis. Nevertheless, our comparisons highlight two potentially related lineages among the geographically proximate Murinae – the Philippine Phloeomyini and the Australo-Papuan Hydromyini. The remains of Coryphomys are relatively scarce in all the archaeological samples, but distributional evidence suggests that both species of Coryphomys were found primarily in upland habitats. Late Pleistocene samples document their former presence at lower elevations, possibly reflecting cooler climatic conditions at that time.
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