A new species of Sigmodontinae (Rodentia) from the late Hemphillian of central Mexico, and comments on the possible radiation of this group
The Sigmodontinae subfamily represents one of the most diverse groups of mammals in the world; this rodent group evolved in the open and arid ecosystems of the Miocene of North America and was the most successful legion of mammals in the Great American Biotic Interchange. Part of its diversification occurred in the Mexican Pliocene, in the Hemphillian-Blancan boundary, where Prosigmodon and Sigmodon species are very common. Recent molecular phylogenetic systematics research propose that Sigmodon is related to South American sigmodontines, while studies of classical morphometry in isolated molar teeth consider Prosigmodon as synonymy of Sigmodon, which modifies the biogeographic and chronostratigraphic interpretations of this group in America. In this paper, we describe a new species of Prosigmodon from the late Hemphillian (~4.89 Ma) of central Mexico based on jaws, maxillary, and complete isolated teeth. This is the most complete and austral record of the genus in North America. This species was compared with North American species of the Sigmodontinae and Neotominae subfamilies and we defined it as a new Prosigmodon species characterized by having a consistently present minute mesoloph in M1 and M2, in addition, there is an isolated metaconid from the protoconid in the m1 of young individuals.
We performed a phylogenetic model focused on understanding the relationship between Prosigmodon (four species) and Sigmodon (eight species), where we included Baiomys (two species), Neotoma (two species), Peromyscus (two species), and Reithrodontomys (two species). Our results indicate that Prosigmodon is a monophyletic group if Sigmodon minor is included within the genus and P. chihuahuensis is excluded. The Mexican Prosigmodon species have more apomorphic characters with respect to S. minor and P. holocuspis. The species of Prosigmodon and Sigmodon are not closely related, Sigmodon is more related to the Neotoma species than the species of Baiomys, Prosigmodon, Reitrhodontomys, and Peromyscus. Based on the topology of our cladogram and the stratigraphic ranges of the species Sigmodontinae and Neotominae, we discuss that Baiomys, Prosigmodon, Reitrhodontomys, and Peromyscus probably diversified in the early Hemphillian, while Sigmodon and Neotoma did so during the late Pliocene.