Until recently, few well-described rodent faunae from the Whitneyan North American Land Mammal Age [NALMA] were known, hindering studies of rodent diversity, biogeography, and evolutionary patterns during the Oligocene. This study describes a new Whitneyan rodent assemblage from the Obritsch Ranch paleontological locality in the Little Badlands region of North Dakota. Specimens were collected from three stratigraphically restricted sampling intervals within the middle to upper Brule Formation, resulting in the recognition of fourteen rodent species, five of which are elsewhere known to first appear in Whitneyan faunae. Described is one new species, the eomyid Paradjidaumo obritschorum, and the first cranial material of the heteromyid rodent ProharrymysKorth and Branciforte, 2007. The rodent fauna from the upper two sampling intervals at Obritsch Ranch and the uppermost fauna recently described from the nearby Fitterer Ranch paleontological locality share four taxa in common with the late Whitneyan Blue Ash local fauna from southwestern South Dakota, indicating these two North Dakota rodent faunae are also from the late Whitneyan. Increasing knowledge of Whitneyan rodent faunae in North America reveals unusually high survivorship of rodent species from the older Orellan NALMA into the Whitneyan NALMA and much geographic variation in the diversity, distribution, and relative abundance of different rodent families between individual Whitneyan rodent faunae. Those factors help explain prior difficulties in differentiating Orellan and Whitneyan rodent faunae and in identifying biostratigraphically useful rodent taxa for the Whitneyan. Overall, Whitneyan rodent faunae from North America display an increase in the diversity of aplodontiids, cricetids, and sciurids and a decrease in eomyid and ischyromyid diversity relative to the Orellan.
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Vol. 85 • No. 3