We describe abundant new remains of the medium-sized mustelid Mellivora benfieldi from the early Pliocene site of Langebaanweg (South Africa). The specimens are from the Muishond Fontein Pelletal Phosphorite Member (MPPM) and the Langeberg Quartz Sand Member (LQSM). Novel dentognathic—upper dentition, alveolus for m2—and postcranial—humerus, metacarpal V, femur and calcaneus—information is provided. This sample enables us to review the taxonomic status of Mio–Pliocene African mellivorines. Mellivora benfieldi is distinguished from the middle–late Miocene ‘Eomellivora’ tugenensis from Ngorora Kenya by its smaller size, and a M1 protocone messially placed; from the late Miocene Howellictis valentini from Chad by greater dental size with more crowded lower premolars, and p3 with distal accessory cuspid; and from the late Miocene Erokomellivora lothagamensis from Kenya, by shorter p4 and buccolingually shorter m1 protoconid. It also differs from H. valentini and Er. lothagamensis in absence or residual presence of the m2 alveolus. We infer M. benfieldi was an opportunistic, medium-sized carnivoran with semifossorial abilities, comparable to its living relative Mellivora capensis. A cladistic analysis was performed and our phylogenetic results place M. benfieldi as the sister species of M. capensis. Mellivorini contains M. benfieldi, M. capensis, and H. valentini. Additionally, we also include Er. lothagamensis and the Indian Promellivora punjabiensis. We propose the creation of one new tribe within Mellivorinae: Eomellivorini (Eomellivora spp. + Ekorus). It shares a common ancestor with Mellivorini and is characterized by large size, a robust and sharp dentition, as well as a skeleton with cursorial adaptations.
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Vol. 40 • No. 4