Dictionary of Human Evolution and Biology

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Family of archaic fossil mammals belonging to the order Plesiadapiformes. Adjective: carpolestid. Known from the middle Paleocene and early Eocene; predominantly a North American taxon, but there have been recent recoveries from eastern Asia. Five genera of small-bodied forms are known, ranging from 20 g to 150 g. Known only from dentition. Each genus is temporally restricted and a sequence is produced that leads workers to state that earlier genera evolved into genera that come later. Dental formula varies over time; procumbent incisors; specialized premolars, the lower fourth premolar is large, bladelike, and multicusped, upper third and fourth premolars are large and butcher-block, reminiscent of the Mesozoic multituberculate mammals (i.e. plagiaulacoid dentition); dentition and body size suggestive of a high-energy diet, such as insects, seeds, nuts, or high-calorie and easily digested fruit (such as berries).

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