|The stunning landscape of the Isle of Skye.|
With each publication, the faunal list from the Kilmaluag has grown. Lurking among these listed finds, you may notice a mystery mammal. This was first mentioned by Savage (1984: p4) as "Pantotheria Genus and species nov.", and it lingered in various guises, such as "Mammalia indet." (Evans et al. 2016). When I began work on the Kilmaluag mammals, my colleagues asked me if I knew anything about this unknown pantothere. So I started combing through the previously collected material to see what I could find.
Among the collections at National Museums Scotland, there was a small box with some tiny bits of fossil in it. A note in the box read: "PANTOTHERE Md w 4 Teeth"*. It was written in a scrawl I've come to recognise as belonging to Bob Savage, after hours spent deciphering his field diaries. I had the specimen CT scanned, and discovered that the long-lost mystery pantothere was actually Palaeoxonodon ooliticus, a species named from isolated molar material from Kirtlington, England (Freeman 1976). Just two years ago, Close et al. (2016) had published the first almost complete jaw of this early mammal, found on the Isle of Skye. They showed that several species named from individual teeth from Kirtlington, all belonged to this one species.
|The unnamed pantothere turned out to be a tiny fragment of jaw belonging to Palaeoxonodon ooliticus. The teeth were broken, so we had to digitally put them back into position.|
The amazing thing about this mystery pantothere, is that Waldman and Savage found it in 1973, three years before this genus and species was named from the single molar teeth found in England. If they had examined it sooner, perhaps this would have been the second Mesozoic mammal named from Scotland?**
You can't help but feel there is a lesson in there.
*It only has three teeth, the fourth may have been lost at some point.
**The first was Borealestes serendipitus, 1972.