Systematic paleontological investigation of the metatherian fauna from the Paleogene Uzunçarşıdere Formation, central Turkey
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The name Metatheria refers to the clade that contains the extant marsupials and also all extinct mammals that are more closely related to extant marsupials than to the placental mammals. Metatherians first appear in the fossil record of Asia during the Early Cretaceous, with younger records in North America (Late Cretaceous), South America (the latest Cretaceous or earliest Paleocene), and finally Australia via Antarctica (by the Eocene). The Cenozoic fossil record of metatherians in the Old World is rather poor. Except for Europe, there are only a handful of metatherian taxa known from Afro-Arabia and Asia, almost all of which are documented only by isolated teeth or partial jaws. Fieldwork at Uzunçarşı, a fossil site in central Turkey, yielded at least three different metatherian taxa, one of which (Anatoliadelphys) is exceptionally preserved and nearly complete. In this study I demonstrate that Anatoliadelphys occupies a more derived position on the metatherian tree than the well-known South American metatherians such as Pucadelphys. My functional morphological investigations indicate that Anatoliadelphys and the South American taxa Pucadelphys and Mayulestes are different from the extant didelphid marsupials of South America in their skeletal adaptations for locomotion. Anatoliadelphys was most likely terrestrial.