The Multituberculata are the only major branch of mammals to have become completely extinct, with no living descendants. They lived for over 100 million years, and are often considered the most successful mammals in natural history. Rodent-like, they first appeared in the Middle Jurassic, and became extinct in the early Oligocene. The structure of the pelvis in the Multituberculata suggests that they gave birth to tiny helpless young, similar to modern marsupials. They are named for their molar teeth, which had many cusps (tubercles) arranged in rows, hence "multituberculates". They also had a single pair of lower incisors and no canines, reminiscent of modern rodents.
Groups within Multituberculata
In their 2001 study, Kielan-Jaworowska and Hurum found that most multituberculates could be referred to two suborders: Plagiaulacida and Cimolodonta. The exception is the genus Arginbaatar, which shares characteristics with both groups.
"Plagiaulacida" is paraphyletic; it is an informal suborder which does not satisfy the cladistic criterion of consisting of an ancestor and all of its descendants. Its members are the more basal multituberculata. Chronologically, they ranged from perhaps the Middle Jurassic (unnamed material), until the Lower Cretaceous. This group is further subdivided into three informal groupings: the Allodontid line, the Paulchoffatiid line, and the Plagiaulacid line.
Cimolodonta is apparently a natural (monophyletic) suborder. This includes the more derived Multituberculata, which have been identified from the Lower Cretaceous to the Eocene. Recognized are the superfamilies Djadochtatherioidea, Taeniolabidoidea, Ptilodontoidea and the Paracimexomys group.
Additionally, there are the families Cimolomyidae, Boffiidae, Eucosmodontidae, Kogaionidae, Microcosmodontidae and the two genera Uzbekbaatar and Viridomys. More precise placement of these types awaits further discoveries and analysis.
With the possible exception of some poorly preserved South American material, "multis" are only known from the northern hemisphere. A southern grouping, Gondwanatheria, has in the past been referred to the order, though this placement currently has little support.
- Kielan-Jaworowska Z. and Hurum J.H. (2001), "Phylogeny and Systematics of multituberculate mammals". Paleontology 44, p.389-429.
- Most of this information has been derived from Multituberculata (Cope 1884)