A new 30 million years old hedgehog genus fossil was discovered at the Mexican site of Santiago Yolomécatl

General view of the Mexican site.
General view of the Mexican site.

  • A research group formed by the palaeontologists, Vicente D. Crespo from the Universitat de València (Research Group in Cenozoic Vertebrate Paleontology - GI-PVC), Universidade Nova de Lisboa (Portugal) and the Valencian Museum of Natural History; with Eduardo Jiménez-Hidalgo and Rosalía Guerrero-Arenas from the University of the Sea (Oaxaca-Mexico) have published in the Historical Biology Journal the description of a new hedgehog that was found in Santiago de Yolomécatl in the Oaxaca state (Mexico).

    The fossil is protected in the Scientific Collection of the Palaeobiology Laboratory of the University of the Sea, that is registered in the Directorate of Public Registry of Archaeological and Historical Monuments and Zones of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).

    The holotype, that is, the fossil from which the new genus and species have been described, consist of a mandible with a premolar and a molar. Thanks to its characteristics, it has been observed that this new hedgehog would have been more carnivorous than the rest of the northamerican genera, as well as being larger and having primitive morphology, similar to those of their Asian ancestors, where the hedgehog family originated. Furthermore, this is the southernmost and most tropical of this family in North America, making its discovery even more exceptional.

    The new genus and species has been ’baptised’ with the scientific name Dzavui landeri, dedicated to the Mixteca god of the rain and protector of the people who inhabited the area where the fossil was found. On the other hand, the species is dedicated to the American palaeontologist Bruce Lander. It should be pointed out that this new hedgehog is more closely related to the modern-day gymnurids or moon rats of Southeast Asia, which are characterized by their lack of quills, than to the hedgehogs per se. This subfamily was dominant among hedgehogs until the Pleistocene.

    The Santiago de Yolomécatl site is dated by Uranium-Lead isotopes to 30.6 +/- 0.77 million years, which would be equivalent to a Lower Oligocene age, thanks to sandstones with zircon grains found just above the site. Dzavui cohabited with other mammals like rhinoceros, wild boar tayassuidae, and peccaries; and extinct large carnivores like amphycionids, popularly known as bear dogs.

    Eduardo Jiménez-Hidalgo, Rosalía Guerrero-Arenas & Vicente D. Crespo (2022): First galericine erinaceid (Mammalia: Eulipotyphla) from the early Oligocene of tropical North America, Historical Biology, DOI: 10.1080/08912963.2022.2070018

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