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By Thom Holmes

This name explains how mammals and birds elevated their collective footprint to dominate the Earth, and the way they advanced to present-day shape.

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The limbs of Onychodectes were stout and muscular, particularly the forelimbs. The forelimbs also were equipped with robust claws and flexible wrist joints, both of which enabled this mammal to dig and climb with equal ­proficiency. Stylinodon (Early Eocene, North America). Stylinodon differed in many respects from the earlier taeniodont Onychodectes, even though Stylinodon lived not too long afterward. This is an example of the rapid evolution and radiation of this mammal clan. 4 m) in length and had a stout, piglike body.

These archaic eutherians were remarkable in their variety of sizes, appearances, and lifestyles. They provide an early glimpse at the potential success of eutherian mammals that continues to this day. i53 53 10/20/08 2:28:45 PM 54 The age of mammals This chapter reviews several key groups of extinct eutherian mammals that dominated life on land during the first part of the Cenozoic Era. The span during which they evolved is illustrated in the diagram Extinct Archaic Eutherian Mammals. TAENIODONTS: ­TREE-­CLIMBERS AND ­DIGGERS The Taeniodonta included omnivorous tree climbers and diggers that lived in North America from the Early Paleocene to the Early Eocene.

Some of these had trunks, tusklike canine teeth, and impressive batteries of plant-shearing cheek teeth. Four subgroups of South American ungulates are recognized. Each group probably evolved independently of the others, from separate ancestors from the Northern Hemisphere. The Litopterna included several families of false horses and camel forms. The most varied of all South American ungulates were the Notungulata, which are united by particular specializations of the ear region of the skull and molar dentition.

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