Plio-Pleistocene fossil mammalian microfauna of southern Africa - a preliminary report including description of two new fossil Muroid genera (Mammalia: Rodentia)

Pocock, T. N.
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Analyses are presented of the mammalian component of rich microfaunal fossil breccia collections mainly of owl pellet origin from the Transvaal Plio-Pleistocene australopithecine sites Kromdraai, Sterkfontein and Makapansgat Limeworks, with briefer references to Swartkrans, Langebaanweg and the Makapansgat Cave of Hearths. Identification of rodent incisors has proved useful in showing Cryptomys robertsi to be a distinct extinct species occurring with C. hottentotus, and in indicating, through the common possession of doubly ridged incisors, a relationship between Mystromys , the Cricetomyidae and certain fossil Cricetodontidae. The fossil assemblages are generally similar to modern ones but elephant shrews (several species) and dormice are relatively commoner, and the once dominant cricetid Mystromys has declined in favour of the murid Mastomys. Two genera, Crocidura and Saccostomus are absent from the older fossil sites, appearing only in the more recent Cave of Hearths, while on the other hand there are certain lineages now extinct. Of these Mystromys darti Lavocat has been rediscovered in abundance in in situ Rodent Corner breccia at Makapansgat, yet it is totally absent from other parts of the Limeworks deposit, suggesting a more complex stratigraphy than previously realised. It is referred to a new genus, Stenodontomys, with a second species from Langebaanweg. Another extinct cricetid previously known under a manuscript name as "Mystromys cookei", common to Makapansgat, Taung and the Krugersdorp district sites, is formally described for the first time also under a new generic name, Proodontomys. On microfaunal evidence Makapansgat is definitely older than the Krugersdorp sites, of which Kromdraai is perhaps the oldest and Swartkrans the youngest. Certain extinct fossils link Makapansgat to Langebaanweg (Stenodontomys), Kromdraai (Macroscelides proboscideus vagans) and Taung (Gypsorhychus). Suggestions that Taung is significantly younger than other australopithecine sites are not supported.
owl pellet, Transvaal, australopithecine