Temporal range: Late JurassicHolocene, 160–0 Ma
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Sublegion: Zatheria
Infralegion: Tribosphenida
Subclass: Theria
Clade: Eutheria
Gill, 1872 Huxley, 1880

Eutheria (; from Greek εὐ-, eu- "true/good" and θηρίον, thēríon "beast" hence "true beasts") is one of two mammalian clades with extant members that diverged in the Early Cretaceous or perhaps the Late Jurassic. Except for the Virginia opossum, from North America, which is a metatherian, all mammals indigenous to Europe, Africa, Asia, and North America north of Mexico are eutherians. Extant eutherians, their last common ancestor, and all extinct descendants of that ancestor are members of Placentalia.

Eutherians are distinguished from noneutherians by various phenotypic traits of the feet, ankles, jaws and teeth. All extant eutherians lack epipubic bones, which are present in all other living mammals (marsupials and monotremes). This allows for expansion of the abdomen during pregnancy.[2]

The oldest known eutherian species is Juramaia sinensis, dated at from the Jurassic in China.[3]

Eutheria was named in 1872 by Theodore Gill; in 1880 Thomas Henry Huxley defined it to encompass a more broadly defined group than Placentalia.[4]


The entocuneiform bone

Distinguishing features are:

  • an enlarged malleolus ("little hammer") at the bottom of the tibia, the larger of the two shin bones.[5]
  • the joint between the first metatarsal bone and the entocuneiform bone (the outermost of the three cuneiform bones) in the foot is offset farther back than the joint between the second metatarsal and middle cuneiform bones – in metatherians these joints are level with each other.[5]
  • various features of jaws and teeth.[5]

Evolutionary history

The Virginia opossum is the only non-Eutherian mammal to be found outside Australasia or South America

Eutheria contains several extinct genera as well as larger groups, many with complicated taxonomic histories still not fully understood. Members of the Adapisoriculidae, Cimolesta and Leptictida have been previously placed within the out-dated placental group Insectivora, while Zhelestids have been considered primitive ungulates.[6] However, more recent studies have suggested these enigmatic taxa represent stem group eutherians, more basal to Placentalia.[7][8]

The fossil eutherian species believed to be the oldest known is Juramaia sinensis, which lived about .[3] Montanalestes was found in North America, while all other nonplacental eutherian fossils have been found in Asia. The earliest known placental fossils have also been found in Asia.[5]



Other mammaliformes







Simplified, non-systematic, outline of evolution of eutheria from cynodont therapsids.[5]
† = extinct


  1. ^ Rook, Deborah L.; Hunter, John P. (April 2013). "Rooting Around the Eutherian Family Tree: the Origin and Relations of the Taeniodonta". Journal of Mammalian Evolution: 1–17.  
  2. ^ Reilly, Stephen M.; White, Thomas D. (2003-01-17). "Hypaxial Motor Patterns and the Function of Epipubic Bones in Primitive Mammals". Science 299 (5605): 400–402.  
  3. ^ a b Luo, Z.; C. Yuan; Q. Meng; Q. Ji (2011). "A Jurassic eutherian mammal and divergence of marsupials and placentals".  
  4. ^ Eutheria (Placental Mammals) by J David Archibald, San Diego State University, San Diego, California, USA. PDF file from
  5. ^ a b c d e Ji, Q., Luo, Z-X., Yuan, C-X.,Wible, J.R., Zhang, J-P. and Georgi, J.A. (April 2002). "The earliest known eutherian mammal". Nature 416 (6883): 816–822.  
  6. ^ Rose, Kenneth D. (2006). The beginning of the age of mammals. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.  
  7. ^ Wible, J. R.; Rougier, G. W.; Novacek, M. J.; Asher, R. J. (2007). "Cretaceous eutherians and Laurasian origin for placental mammals near the K/T boundary". Nature 447 (7147): 1003–1006.  
  8. ^ Wible, John R.; Rougier, Guillermo W.; Novacek, Michael J.; Asher, Robert J. (2009). "The Eutherian Mammal Maelestes gobiensis from the Late Cretaceous of Mongolia and the phylogeny of cretaceous eutheria". Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 327: 1–123.