Just out @ PeerJ
A new taxon of stem otariid, Eotaria citrica sp. nov., is described from the upper Burdigalian to lower Langhian “Topanga” formation of Orange County, California. The new species is described from mandibular and dental remains that show a unique combination of plesiomorphic and derived characters. Specifically, it is characterized by having trenchant and prominent paraconid cusps in p3–m1, lingual cingula of p2–4 with faint crenulations, premolars and molars with vestigial metaconid, bilobed root of m2 and a genial tuberosity located under p3. Furthermore, additional material of the contemporaneous Eotaria crypta is described, providing new information on the morphology of this taxon. Both species of Eotaria represent the earliest stem otariids, reinforcing the hypothesis that the group originated in the north Eastern Pacific Region. At present, the “Topanga” Fm. pinniped fauna includes Eotaria citrica, Eotaria crypta, the desmatophocid Allodesmus sp., the odobenids Neotherium sp., Pelagiarctos sp. and includes the oldest records of crown pinnipeds in California. Overall this pinniped fauna is similar to the nearly contemporaneous Sharktooth Hill bonebed. However, unambiguous records of Eotaria are still missing from Sharktooth Hill. This absence may be due to taphonomic or paleoenvironmental factors. The new “Topanga” record presented here was integrated into an overview of the late Oligocene through early Pleistocene pinniped faunas of Southern California. The results show an overall increase in body size over time until the Pleistocene. Furthermore, desmatophocids were the largest pinnipeds during the middle Miocene, but were extinct by the beginning of the late Miocene. Odobenids diversified and became the dominant pinnipeds in late Miocene through Pleistocene assemblages, usually approaching or exceeding 3 m in body length, while otariids remained as the smallest taxa. This pattern contrasts with modern assemblages, in which the phocid Mirounga angustirostris is the largest pinniped taxon in the region, odobenids are extinct and medium and small size ranges are occupied by otariids or other phocids.
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