Cladogenesis and replacement in the fossil record of Microsyopidae (?Primates) from the southern Bighorn Basin, Wyoming

Mary T. Silcox, Keegan R. Selig, Thomas M. Bown, Amy E. Chew, Kenneth D. Rose

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The early Eocene of the southern Bighorn Basin, Wyoming, is notable for its nearly continuous record of mammalian fossils. Microsyopinae (?Primates) is one of several lineages that shows evidence of evolutionary change associated with an interval referred to as Biohorizon A. Arctodontomys wilsoni is replaced by a larger species, Arctodontomys nuptus, during the biohorizon interval in what is likely an immigration/emigration or immigration/local extinction event. The latter is then superseded by Microsyops angustidens after the end of the Biohorizon A interval. Although this pattern has been understood for some time, denser sampling has led to the identification of a specimen intermediate in morphology between A. nuptus and M. angustidens, located stratigraphically as the latter is appearing. Because specimens of A. nuptus have been recovered approximately 60 m above the appearance of M. angustidens, it is clear that A. nuptus did not suffer pseudoextinction. Instead, evidence suggests that M. angustidens branched off from a population of A. nuptus, but the latter species persisted. This represents possible evidence of cladogenesis, which has rarely been directly documented in the fossil record. The improved understanding of both evolutionary transitions with better sampling highlights the problem of interpreting gaps in the fossil record as punctuations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20200824
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • Eocene
  • gradualism
  • Microsyopinae
  • punctuated equilibrium
  • Wasatchian
  • Willwood Formation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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