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A new Early Pliocene record of the toothless walrus Valenictus (Carnivora, Odobenidae) from the Purisima Formation of Northern California


The walrus (Odobenus rosmarus) is a large tusked molluskivore that inhabits the Arctic and is the sole living member of the family Odobenidae. In contrast to the modern walrus, extinct walruses lived in temperate and even subtropical climates as far south as Baja California and Japan in the Pacific, and Florida and Morocco in the Atlantic. Multispecies walrus assemblages are now documented from several localities in the North Pacific, the center of origin for the family. The genus Valenictus is a toothless dense-boned walrus reported from several localities in southern California and Baja California. An isolated astragalus from lower Pliocene (5.33–4.89 Ma, Zanclean correlative) sediments of the Purisima Formation of northern California (Santa Cruz County, California) matches the highly derived morphology of Valenictus chulavistensis, and is identifiable as Valenictus sp. This specimen is the first record of Valenictus from the Purisima Formation and the first from northern California.

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