A partial postcranial skeleton from the late Eocene of the Shara Murun region of northern China is described as a new genus and species of fossil pangolin, Cryptomanis gobiensis. Cryptomanis displays numerous diagnostic pangolin characteristics, including enrolled lumbar zygapophyses and fissured ungual phalanges. Like the anatomically similar North American Eocene pangolin Patriomanis, it retains primitive mammalian features such as a convex astragalar head and a prominent femoral third trochanter that are lost in extant pangolins. The systematic position of Cryptomanis within Pholidota is not unambiguously resolved. It is tentatively placed in the family Patriomanidae, which we restrict to Cryptomanis and the closely similar Patriomanis. Cryptomanis differs from modern pangolins in its more robust proximal limb elements, its lack of a greatly enlarged third manual digit, its slender tail, and its more elongate, grasping pedal digits. These traits suggest an animal well adapted for digging but with a tendency toward a semi-arboreal lifestyle. This new genus and species represents the oldest and most northerly Asian record of pangolins, and indicates that pangolins were widely distributed throughout Laurasia during the Eocene. It is consistent with a Laurasian origin for pangolins.
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Vol. 26 • No. 1