South African Journal of Science
On-line version ISSN 1996-7489
The Allotheria are fossil mammals with upper and lower post-canines usually showing two longitudinal rows of cusps separated by a central valley. The group comprises the poorly known haramiyids, mostly represented by isolated teeth, and the notably diverse and long-lived multituberculates; its monophyly is uncertain. The oldest records of this particular group are the Late Triassic (Norian-Rhaetian) haramiyids. We present here postcanines with haramiyid-like crowns that were recovered from the Lower Triassic of South Africa. A distinguishing feature of the new teeth is that they are single-rooted. This is the oldest record of mammal-like teeth with crowns having parallel rows of cusps, representing a temporal extension of some 43 million years from similar crown patterns of haramiyids and tritylodontids. This finding reinforces evidence of the remarkable faunal turnover of therapsids in the Early/Middle Triassic, at which time an explosive origin followed by a rapid early diversification of herbivorous/omnivorous forms with occluding expanded postcanines took place.