(Ameghino, 1888 [originally Mastodon])
Notiomastodon is an extinct proboscidean genus of gomphotheres (a distant relative to modern elephants) endemic to South America from the Pleistocene to the Holocene living for about 1.8 million years.
Proboscideans in South America were first described by Georges Cuvier in 1806, but he failed to give them specific names beyond "Mastodon". Fischer in 1814 assigned the “mastodonte des cordillères” specimen the first specific name "Mastotherium hyodon".:340 In 1824, Cuvier classified the fossils of "Mastodon andium" as the "mastodonte des cordillères" specimen, and "Mastodon humboldtii" to the "mastodonte humboldien". Due to the Principle of Priority, this meant that "Mastodon andium" was invalid, as "Mastotherium hyodon" was named first from the same specimen. Today, neither tooth is considered diagnostic to any specific taxon. Notiomastodon,[nb 1] "southern mastodon" was named by Cabrera (1929). It was assigned to the Gomphotheriidae by Carroll (1988).
For centuries, the taxonomy of gomphotheres, including Notiomastodon had been subject to debate, with many generic and specific names for similar South American gomphotheres. The genus is currently under dispute, whether it should belong to Notiomastodon or Stegomastodon as regardless of genus, the species is considered synonymous with Haplomastodon by most authors, as the specimens were not considered morphologically distinct from this species. This article treats Notiomastodon separately because in phylogenetic analyses, Notiomastodon/Stegomastodon platensis specimens are not sister taxa, which would make the genus polyphyletic. However, some authors think this is inconclusive, as they think the North American Stegomastodon material is too scarce and fragmentary to make a definitive statement.
Notiomastodon belongs to the family Gomphotheriidae, a group of animals distantly related to modern elephants and mammoths. Notiomastodon seems to have had a 4-million-year-long ghost lineage, diverging from the clade that contains Rhynchotherium and Cuvieronius around the Late Miocene. This would imply that Notiomastodon had been evolving in southern Central America, where the fossils are poorly sampled, prior to its migration into South America during the Pliocene or Pleistocene.
The phylogenetic position among trilophodont gomphotheres according to Mothé et al., 2016 is:
N. platensis is known from MECN 82, a 35-year-old male that would be around 2.52 m (8 ft 3 in) tall, with an estimated weight of 4.4 tonnes (4.3 long tons; 4.9 short tons). It had two tusks (one on either side of its trunk), like other members of the Gomphotheriidae. Unlike close relative Cuvieronius, its tusks were not twisted, but their length and shape are observed as greatly variable depending on the individual.
Notiomastodon has been described as the 'lowland gomphothere'. The genus tended to inhabit seasonally dry, open forests, with a range lining most of the South American coastline and lowland interior, bar the Guiana Shield, with particularly large concentrations along the coast of Peru and in northeastern Brazil. In contrast, the other representative of South American gomphotheres, Cuvieronius, inhabited the mountainous Andes region from Ecuador to southern Peru and Bolivia, as well as lowland areas in north-east Peru.
The diet composition of Notiomastodon varied widely depending on location, but probably primarily consisted of a mix of C3 shrubs and C4 grasses, whilst also serving as a primary disperser of the seeds for a variety of different plant species.
Notiomastodon probably had a similar population structure and behaviour to extant elephants.
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