Temporal range: Late Jurassic – Recent, 160–0 Ma
Fossil specimen of Eomaia scansoria
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Supercohort: Theria
Branch: Eutheria
Thomas Henry Huxley, 1880

Eutheria ( /juːˈθɪəriə/; from Ancient Greek ευθήριον, euthērion, meaning "true/good beasts") is the clade consisting of primates, armadillos, and all other mammals—in many orders—that are more closely related to them than they are to marsupials. Placentalia is the clade originating with the last common ancestor of extant eutherians. Since Placentalia therefore includes all living eutherians, the nonplacental eutherians are necessarily extinct; the picture to the right shows a fossil of one such animal, Eomaia.

Eutherians are distinguished from noneutherians by various features of the feet, ankles, jaws and teeth. One of the major differences between placental and nonplacental eutherians is that placentals lack epipubic bones, which are present in all other fossil and living mammals (monotremes and marsupials).

The oldest known eutherian species is Juramaia sinensis, dated at Template:Ma/1 million years ago from the Jurassic in China.[1] The previously earliest known fossil eutherian, Eomaia scansoria, was also from China and is dated to the Early Cretaceous period, about Template:Ma/1 million years ago.

"Eutheria" was introduced by Thomas Henry Huxley in 1880, meant to be broader in definition than "Placentalia", the term previously in use.


There are no living nonplacental eutherians, and so knowledge of their synapomorphies ("defining features") is entirely based on a few fossils, which means the reproductive features that distinguish modern placentals from other mammals cannot be used in defining Eutheria. The features of Eutheria that distinguish them from metatherians, a group that includes modern marsupials, are:

  • an enlarged malleolus ("little hammer") at the bottom of the tibia, the larger of the two shin bones.[2]
  • the joint between the first metatarsal bone and the entocuneiform bone in the foot is offset further back than the joint between the second metatarsal and mesocuneiform bones – in metatherians these joints are level with each other.[2]
  • various features of jaws and teeth.[2]

Reproductive features are also of no use in identifying fossil placental mammals, which are distinguished from other eutherians by:

  • the presence of a malleolus at the bottom of the fibula, the smaller of the two shin bones.[2]
  • a complete mortise and tenon upper ankle joint, where the rearmost bones of the foot fit into a socket formed by the ends of the tibia and fibula.[2]
  • a wide opening at the bottom of the pelvis, which allows the birth of large, well-developed offspring. Marsupials have and nonplacental eutherians had a narrower opening that allows only small, immature offspring to pass through.[3]
  • the absence of epipubic bones extending forward from the pelvis, which are not found in any placental, but are found in all other mammals – nonplacental eutherians, marsupials, monotremes and mammaliformes – and even in the cynodont therapsids that are closest to mammals. Their function is to stiffen the body during locomotion.[4] This stiffening would be harmful in pregnant placentals, whose abdomens need to expand.[5]


These are the subgroups of extant members of Eutheria:

These groups together make up the crown group Placentalia (placental mammals). Eutheria also includes now extinct lineages that lie outside of Placentalia (see below).[6]

Another now extinct clade - the Meridiungulata - a set of ungulates from South America appear to group with the Afrotheria and the Xenarthria.

Analysis of transposable element insertions around the time of divergence of Boreoeutheria, Afrotheria, and Xenarthra strongly support a near-concomitant origin (trifurcation) of these three superorders, making further subdivision impractical and meaningless.[7][8] These observations eliminate the need to choose between the previously proposed groupings of Boreoeutheria and Xenarthra (Exafroplacentalia)[9], Afrotheria and Xenarthra (Atlantogenata)[10][11][12], Afrotheria and Boreoeutheria (Epitheria).[13][14]

The eutherian root appears to lie between Atlantogenata and Boreoeutheria.[15]

Evolutionary history

The fossil eutherian species believed to be the oldest known is Juramaia sinensis, said to be about Template:Ma/1 million years ago.[1] Another early eutherian mammal is the nonplacental Eomaia scansoria from the Lower Cretaceous of China, dated to about Template:Ma/1 million years ago. Some of its fossils show thick fur. Montanalestes was found in North America, while all other nonplacental eutherian fossils have been found in Asia. The earliest known placental fossils have also been found in Asia.[2]
Millions of years ago
Placentals      =
Other eutheria
Asian fossils         =
N American fossils
    = Period when placental classes diverged according to molecular phylogenetics estimates
Fossil record of Cretaceous eutheria[2]
Simplified, non-systematic, outline of evolution of eutheria from cynodont therapsids.[2]
† = extinct


  1. ^ a b Luo Z, Yuan C, Meng Q & Ji Q (2011), "A Jurassic eutherian mammal and divergence of marsupials and placentals", Nature 476(7361): p. 42–45.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Ji, Q., Luo, Z-X., Yuan, C-X.,Wible, J.R., Zhang, J-P. and Georgi, J.A. (April 2002). "The earliest known eutherian mammal". Nature. 416 (6883): 816–822. PMID 11976675. doi:10.1038/416816a. Retrieved 2008-09-24. 
  3. ^ Weil, A. (April 2002). "Mammalian evolution: Upwards and onwards". Nature. 416 (6883): 798–799. PMID 11976661. doi:10.1038/416798a. Retrieved 2008-09-24. 
  4. ^ Reilly, S.M., and White, T.D. (January 2003). "Hypaxial Motor Patterns and the Function of Epipubic Bones in Primitive Mammals". Science. 299 (5605): 400–402. PMID 12532019. doi:10.1126/science.1074905. Retrieved 2008-09-24. 
  5. ^ Novacek, M.J., Rougier, G.W, Wible, J.R., McKenna, M.C, Dashzeveg, D.,and Horovitz, I. (October 1997). "Epipubic bones in eutherian mammals from the Late Cretaceous of Mongolia". Nature. 389 (6650): 483–486. PMID 9333234. doi:10.1038/39020. Retrieved 2008-09-24. 
  6. ^ Archibald JD, Averianov AO, Ekdale EG (2001). "Late Cretaceous relatives of rabbits, rodents, and other extant eutherian mammals". Nature. 414 (6859): 62–5. PMID 11689942. doi:10.1038/35102048.  Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)
  7. ^ Nishihara, H., Maruyama, S. & Okada, N. 2009. Retroposon analysis and recent geological data suggest near-simultaneous divergence of the three superorders of mammals. PNAS 106: 5235–40.
  8. ^ Churakov, G., Kriegs, J.O., Baertsch, R., Zemann, A., Brosius, J. & Schmitz, J. 2009. Mosaic retroposon insertion patterns in placental mammals. Genome Research 19: 868–75.
  9. ^ Murphy, W.J., Pringle, T.H., Crider, T.A., Springer, M.S. & Miller, W. 2007. Using genomic data to unravel the root of the placental mammal phylogeny. Genome Research 17, pp. 413–421.
  10. ^ Wildman DE, Uddin M, Opazo JC; et al. (2007). "Genomics, biogeography, and the diversification of placental mammals". PNAS. 104 (36): 14395–400. PMC 1958817Freely accessible. PMID 17728403. doi:10.1073/pnas.0704342104. 
  11. ^ Murphy WJ, Pringle TH, Crider TA, Springer MS, Miller W (2007). "Using genomic data to unravel the root of the placental mammal phylogeny". Genome Research. 17 (4): 413–21. PMC 1832088Freely accessible. PMID 17322288. doi:10.1101/gr.5918807. 
  12. ^ Schneider A, Cannarozzi GM (2009). "Support Patterns from Different Outgroups Provide a Strong Phylogenetic Signal". Mol. Biol. Evol. 26 (6): 1259–72. PMID 19240194. doi:10.1093/molbev/msp034. 
  13. ^ Shoshani J, McKenna MC (1998) Higher taxonomic relationships among extant mammals based on morphology, with selected comparisons of results from molecular data. Mol Phylogenet Evol 9: 572–584.
  14. ^ Churakov G, Kriegs JO, Baertsch R, Zemann A, Brosius J, Schmitz J (2009). "Mosaic Retroposon Insertion Patterns in Placental Mammals". Genome Research. 19 (5): 868–75. PMC 2675975Freely accessible. PMID 19261842. doi:10.1101/gr.090647.108. 
  15. ^ Song S, Liu L, Edwards SV, Wu S (2012) Resolving conflict in eutherian mammal phylogeny using phylogenomics and the multispecies coalescent model. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA

Further reading

External links


Mammal Diversity 2011 This article is part of Project Mammal Taxonomy, a All Birds project that aims to write comprehensive articles on every order, family and other taxonomic rank related to mammals.
This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).
Please help by writing it in the style of All Birds Wiki!

Cite error: <ref> tags exist, but no <references/> tag was found
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.