Early Mammut from the Upper Miocene of northern China, and its implications for the evolution and differentiation of Mammutidae
Mammut is the terminal taxon of the proboscidean group Mammutidae, which survived to the Late Pleistocene. Although this genus was widely distributed in the Pliocene of Eurasia and the Pleistocene of North America, little is known about its early evolution. Here, we report on Mammut cf. M. obliquelophus from the Upper Miocene of northern China based on new fossil material, including an almost complete juvenile cranium and other remains, which show many primitive features within Mammutidae and clearly demonstrate the morphological evolution of Mammut. The strongly laterally expanded lateral wing of the occiput and the presence of basal constriction of the incisive fossa display cranial similarity between Mammut cf. M. obliquelophus and both Eozygodon morotoensis and Choerolophodon guangheensis, early representatives of the Mammutidae and Choerolophodontidae, respectively, indicating the close relationship between these two groups: both of them are located at the basal phylogenetic positions in Elephantimorpha. This result is further confirmed by a cladistic analysis.