Prototheria(redirected from prototherians)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus.
One of the four subclasses of the class Mammalia. Prototheria contains a single order, the Monotremata. No ancestral genera of fossil monotremes are known, and the structure of the living monotremes is so specialized that the affinities of the Prototheria are largely conjectural. Most mammalogists believe that the prototheres arose from a different stock of therapsid reptiles than the one that gave rise to the Theria.
No fossils earlier than the Pleistocene are known, and these come from Australia. The duckbilled platypus and several species of the echidnas are living representatives of this group. Everything indicates that the Prototheria represent a very small and relatively unsuccessful group that has miraculously survived in an isolated corner of the Earth. See Mammalia, Monotremata