Journal of Mammalian Evolution

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 265–273 | Cite as

The Tropics as Reservoir of Otherwise Extinct Mammals: The Case of Rodents from a New Pliocene Faunal Assemblage from Northern Venezuela

  • M. Guiomar Vucetich
  • Alfredo A. Carlini
  • Orangel Aguilera
  • Marcelo R. Sánchez-Villagra
Original Article


We report a new vertebrate assemblage from the Pliocene Vergel Member of the San Gregorio Formation in northwestern Venezuela, which includes Crocodylia and Testudines indet., toxodonts, at least four species of xenarthrans of the Dasypodidae, Pampatheriidae, Glyptodontidae and Megatheriidae, and rodents. The last are Cardiatherium, cf. Caviodon (Hydrochoeridae), Neoepiblema (Neoepiblemidae), and what is here described as a new genus of a low-crowned octodontoid. cf. Caviodon is the first cardiomyine for northern South America. The rodent assemblage resembles in its ecological composition those of the late Miocene (Huayquerian) from the “Mesopotamian” of Argentina and the Acre region in Brazil, with partially overlapping systematic composition. The stratigraphic position of the San Gregorio Formation and mammals other than caviomorphs suggest a late Pliocene age for these sediments, implying the endurance of rodent taxa beyond their biochron in southern South America.


Rodentia Phylogeny Caviomorpha Biogeography Systematics 



We thank Rodolfo Sánchez (Urumaco) and Alejandro Kramarz (Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales “B. Rivadavia”, Buenos Aires) for access to collections under his care and Alfredo Zurita and Dione Aguilera for various help in the field and the lab. This work was supported by the University of Zürich (MRSV) and by the ‘Agencia Nacional de Promoción Científica y Tecnológica PICT 38112’ (MGV).


  1. Aguilera OA, Rodrigues de Aguilera D, Vega F, Sánchez-Villagra MR (2010) Fossil decapods from Venezuela. In: Sánchez-Villagra MR, Aguilera OA, Carlini AA (eds) Urumaco and Venezuelan Palaeontology—The Fossil Record of the Northern Neotropics. Indiana University Press, Bloomington and IndianapolisGoogle Scholar
  2. Candela AM (2005) Los roedores del “Mesopotamiense” (Mioceno tardío, Formación Ituzaingó) de la provincia de Entre Ríos (Argentina). Temas Biodiversidad del Litoral Fluvial Argentino II INSUGEO. Misc 14:37–48Google Scholar
  3. Carlini AA, Zurita A, Scillato-Yané GJ, Aguilera O, Sánchez R (2008) New glyptodont from the Codore Formation (Pliocene), Falcón State, Venezuela, its relationship with the Asterostemma problem, and the paleobiogeography of the Glyptodontinae. Paläontol Z 82:139–152Google Scholar
  4. Cione AL, Azpelicueta MM, Bond M, Carlini AA, Casciotta J, Cozzuol M, de la Fuente M, Gasparini Z, Goin F, Noriega J, Scillato-Yané G, Soibelzon L, Tonni EP, Verzi, D, Vucetich MG (2000) Miocene vertebrates from Entre Ríos, eastern Argentina. In: Azeñolaza F, Herbst R (eds) El Mio-Plioceno Argentino. INSUGEO Ser Correl Geol 14(1–2):191–237Google Scholar
  5. Cozzuol MA (2006) The Acre vertebrate fauna: age, diversity, and geography. J S Am Earth Sci 21:185–203CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Deschamps CM, Olivares AI, Vieytes EC, Vucetich MG (2007) The oldest capybaras (Rodentia, Hydrochoeridae; late Miocene of Argentina): ontogeny and diversity. J Vertebr Paleontol 27(3):683–692CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Deschamps CM, Vieytes EC, Olivares AI, Vucetich MG (2009) Primer registro de Cardiatherium chasicoense (Rodentia, Hydrochoeridae) fuera del área pampeana (Argentina) y su valor bioestratigráfico. Ameghiniana 46(2):295–305Google Scholar
  8. Díaz de Gamero ML (1996) The changing course of the Orinoco River during the Neogene: a review. Palaeogeog Palaeoclimat Palaeoecol 123:385–402CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Frailey CD (1986) Late Miocene and Holocene mammals exclusive of the Notoungulata, of the Río Acre region, western Amazonia. Contrib Sci Nat Hist Mus Los Angeles County 374:1–46Google Scholar
  10. Hadler P, Verzi DH, Vucetich MG, Ferigolo J, Ribeiro AM (2008) Caviomorphs (Mammalia, Rodentia) from the Holocene of Rio Grande do Sul State, Brazil: systematics and paleoenvironmental context. Rev Bras Paleontol 11:97–116Google Scholar
  11. Hambalek N, Rull V, De Digiacomo E, Díaz de Gamero ML (1994) Evolución paleoecológica y paleoambiental de la secuencia del Neogeno en el surco de Urumaco. Estudio palinológico y litológico. Bol Soc venezolana Geol 19(1–2):7–19Google Scholar
  12. Head JJ, Bloch JI, Hastings AK, Bourque JR, Cadena EA, Herrera FA, Polly PD, Jaramillo CA (2009) Giant boid snake from the Palaeocene neotropics reveals hotter past equatorial temperatures. Nature 457:715–717CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Jablonski D, Roy K, Valentine JW (2006) Out of the tropics: evolutionary dynamics of the latitudinal diversity gradient. Science 314:102–106CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Jaramillo C, Hoorn C, Silva S, Leite F, Herrera F, Quiroz L, Dino R, Antonioli L (2010) The origin of the modern Amazon rainforest: implications from the palynological and paleobotanical record. In: Hoorn MC, Wesselingh FP (eds) Amazonia, Landscape and Species Evolution. Blackwell, Oxford, pp 317–334Google Scholar
  15. Johnson KG, Sánchez-Villagra MR, Aguilera O (2009) The Oligocene/Miocene transition on coral reefs in the Falcón Basin (NW Venezuela). Palaios 24:59–69CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Kay RF, Madden RH, Cifelli RL, Flynn JJ (eds) (1997) Vertebrate Paleontology in the Neotropics, The Miocene Fauna of La Venta, Colombia. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington DCGoogle Scholar
  17. Kraglievich L (1927) Nota preliminar sobre nuevos géneros y especies de roedores de la fauna argentina. Physis 8:591–598Google Scholar
  18. Kramarz AG, Bellosi ES (2005) Hystricognath rodents from the Pinturas Formation, early–middle Miocene of Patagonia, biostratigraphic and paleoenvironmental implications. J S Am Earth Sci 18:199–212CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. MacFadden BJ (2006) Extinct mammalian biodiversity of the ancient New World tropics. Trends Ecol Evol 21:157–165CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Madden RH, Carlini AA, Vucetich MG, Kay RF (eds) (2010) The Paleontology of Gran Barranca: Evolution and Environmental Change through the Middle Cenozoic of Patagonia. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  21. Mihaljević M, Klug C, Aguilera O, Wyss P, Lüthi T, Sánchez-Villagra MR (in press) Venezuelan echinoids: their fossil record and new material from the Neogene. Palaeontol ElectronicaGoogle Scholar
  22. Ministerio de Energía y Minas (1997) Léxico Estratigráfico de Venezuela. Third Edition. Bol Geol 12:1–828Google Scholar
  23. Negri FJ, Ferigolo J (1999) Anatomia craniana de Neoepiblema ambrosettianus (Ameghino 1889) (Rodentia, Caviomorpha, Neoepiblemidae) do Mioceno Superior-Plioceno, Estado do Acre, Brasil, e revisão das espécies do gênero. Bol Mus Paraense Emílio Goeldi 11:3–80Google Scholar
  24. Olivares AI (2009) Anatomía, Sistemática y evolución de los roedores caviomorfos sudamericanos del género Eumysops (Rodentia, Echimyidae). Unpublished Ph.D. thesis. Facultad de Ciencias Naturales y Museo Universidad Nacional de La PlataGoogle Scholar
  25. Ortiz-Jaureguizar E, Cladera GA (2006) Paleoenvironmental evolution of southern South America during the Cenozoic. J Arid Environ 66:498–532CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Pascual R (1961) Un Nuevo Cardiomyinae (Rodentia, Caviidae) de la Formación Arroyo Chasicó (Plioceno inferior) de la provincia de Buenos Aires. Ameghiniana 2(4):61–72Google Scholar
  27. Pascual R, Ortiz-Jaureguízar E, Prado JL (1996) Land mammals: paradigm of Cenozoic South American geobiotic evolution. In: Arratia G (ed) Contribution of Southern South America to Vertebrate Paleontology. Münchner Geowiss Abh (A) 30:265–319Google Scholar
  28. Patterson B, Wood AE (1982) Rodents from the Deseadan Oligocene of Bolivia and the relationships of the Caviomorpha. Bull Mus Comp Zool 149:370–543Google Scholar
  29. Pérez ME (2010) Sistemática, ecología y bioestratigrafía de Eocardiidae (Rodentia, Hystricognathi, Cavioidea) del Mioceno temprano y medio de Patagonia. Unpublished Ph.D. thesis. Facultad de Ciencias Naturales y Museo Universidad Nacional de La Plata.Google Scholar
  30. Pérez ME, Vucetich MG, Kramarz AG (2010) The first Eocardiidae (Rodentia) in the Colhuehuapian (early Miocene) of Bryn Gwyn (northern Chubut, Argentina) and the early evolution of the peculiar cavioid rodents. J Vertebr Paleontol 30:1–7CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Quiróz LI, Jaramillo CA (2010) Stratigraphy and sedimentary environments of Miocene shallow to marginal marine deposits in the Urumaco Trough, Falcón Basin, western Venezuela. In: Sánchez-Villagra MR, Aguilera OA, Carlini AA (eds) Urumaco and Venezuelan Palaeontology—The Fossil Record of the Northern Neotropics. Indiana University Press, Bloomington and IndianapolisGoogle Scholar
  32. Rovereto C (1914) Los estratos araucanos y sus fósiles. An Mus Nac Hist Nat Buenos Aires 25:1–247Google Scholar
  33. Sánchez-Villagra MR, Aguilera OA (2006) Neogene vertebrates from Urumaco, Falcón State, Venezuela: diversity and significance. J Syst Palaeontol 4:213–220CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Sánchez-Villagra MR, Aguilera OA, Horovitz I (2003) The anatomy of the world’s largest extinct rodent. Science 301:1708–1710CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Sant’Anna MJF (1994) Roedores do Neógeno do Alto Juruá, Estado do Acre, Brasil. Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Curso de Pós-graduação em Geociências. Dissertação de MestradoGoogle Scholar
  36. Verzi DH, Montalvo CI, Deschamps CM (2008) Biostratigraphy and biochronology of the late Miocene of central Argentina: evidence from rodents and taphonomy. Geobios 41:145–155CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Vucetich MG, Verzi DH (2002) First record of Dasyproctidae (Rodentia) in the Pleistocene of Argentina. Paleoclimatic implication. Palaeogeog Palaeoclimat Palaeoecol 178:67–73CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Vucetich MG, Deschamps CM (2010) Palaeontology, evolution and sytematics of capybaras. In: Moreira JR, de Barros KMP, Ferraz M, Herrera EA, Macdonald DW (eds) Capivara: biologia, produção e conservação. Springer Science and Business Media, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  39. Vucetich MG, Deschamps CM, Olivares AI, Dozo MT (2005a) Capybaras, size, time and shape: a model kit. Acta Palaeontol Pol 50:259–272Google Scholar
  40. Vucetich MG, Vieytes EC, Verzi D, Noriega J, Tonni EP (2005b) Unexpected primitive rodents in the Quaternary of Argentina. J S Am Earth Sci 20:57–64Google Scholar
  41. Walsh S, Sánchez R (2008) The first Cenozoic fossil bird from Venezuela. Paläontol Z 82:105–11Google Scholar
  42. Woods CA, Kilpatrick CW (2005) Infraorder Hystricognathi Brandt, 1855. In: Wilson DE, Reeder DM (eds) Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. The John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, pp 1538–1600Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Guiomar Vucetich
    • 1
  • Alfredo A. Carlini
    • 1
  • Orangel Aguilera
    • 2
  • Marcelo R. Sánchez-Villagra
    • 3
  1. 1.Departamento Científico Paleontología de Vertebrados, Museo de La PlataLa PlataArgentina
  2. 2.Universidad Nacional Experimental Francisco de MirandaCoroVenezuela
  3. 3.Palaeontological Institute and MuseumUniversity of ZürichZürichSwitzerland

Personalised recommendations