We describe an associated skull and lower jaws of a new species of primitive skunk, Martinogale (subfamily Mephitinae), from the late Miocene Dove Spring Formation (late Clarendonian), Kern County, California. It is also the first occurrence of this genus in the Tertiary of the West Coast of North America. The new species is among the best-preserved primitive fossil skunks and represents one of the earliest members of the New World mephitines. As the smallest skunk so far known, the new Martinogale features some of the most primitive cranial and dental morphologies in mephitines. The new information permits a phylogenetic analysis of basal taxa from North America, which suggests a New World clade for all known fossil and living taxa from North and South America. We place this New World clade in a tribe (Mephitini) of its own. New World mephitines share the following derived characters: presence of a P4 parastyle, m1 hypoconid dominant in talonid, and presence of a lingual cingulum on lower canines. We further postulate that New World skunks are the result of a single immigration event, and the new California skunk is close to the origin of the New World skunks.
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Vol. 25 • No. 4