Teinolophos

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Teinolophos
Temporal range: Early Cretaceous
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Monotremata
Family: Steropodontidae
Genus: Teinolophos
Species: T. trusleri
Binomial name
Teinolophos trusleri
Rich et al., 1999

Teinolophos trusleri was a prehistoric species of monotreme, or egg-laying mammal. It is known from a lower jawbone found in Flat Rocks, Victoria, Australia. It lived during the Aptian age of the Lower Cretaceous. It is the earliest known relative of the Platypus.

The species name honours the artist Peter Trusler. The genus name, Teinolophos, means 'extended ridge', a reference to its tooth structure.

Originally, Teinolophos was thought to be a eupanthothere. Further research revealed similarities to Steropodon, except in size: the animal was around 10 cm long.

The holotype is a partial left dentary known as NMV P208231. An age of approximately 123 million years makes this the earliest known monotreme. The lower molar is broadly similar in morphology to the m2 of Steropodon. The trigonid is compressed and the talonid has no basin. The dentary is about one sixth the size of Steropodon's, and wear facets indicate an "orthal" occlusion with the upper molars.

The construction of the lower jaw differs from existing monotremes. Among the contrasts are the condyle, which is well above the tooth row (instead of at about the same height); and the ascending ramus, which is also higher. Also different is that Teinolophos probably had a strong bite. A unique feature for known toothed monotremes is that the trigonid is tall, while the talonid is set much lower. This is more like the general mammalian arrangement. The molar is double-rooted, which is plesiomorphic when compared to ornithorhynchids, but is a shared characteristic with Steropodon and Kollikodon. Subsequent monotreme molars are multi-rooted.

The species has been placed in the Steropodontidae in some classifications.

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