Article: A new species of Moeritherium (Proboscidea, Mammalia) from the Eocene of Algeria: new perspectives on the ancestral morphotype of the genus
A new species of Moeritherium (Proboscidea, Mammalia), M. chehbeurameuri sp. nov., is described from remains discovered in the early late Eocene locality of Bir El Ater, Algeria. Although mainly represented by isolated teeth, it shows distinct synapomorphies which justify its attribution to the genus Moeritherium, together with exclusive features that led to the creation of the new species. The main characteristic of this new taxon is the almost complete lophodonty shown by its molars, while Moeritherium is commonly regarded as a bunolophodont to bunodont taxon. In addition to this lophodonty, this new taxon shows anatomical features as yet unknown for the genus, but often met within lophodont early proboscidean taxa such as Phosphatherium escuilliei and Numidotherium koholense. Although a revision of the whole genus Moeritherium is outside the scope of this paper, the main controversies and discussion about the definition of species within the genus Moeritherium are discussed. The surprising lophodonty of M. chehbeurameuri, together with its small size, its early late Eocene age and the weak molarization of its P3 support the hypothesis of a lophodont hypothetical ancestor for moeritheres, and therefore strengthen the growing hypothesis of a lophodont dental ancestral morphotype for proboscideans.