Mammals and stratigraphy : Geochronology of the continental mammal-bearing Tertiary of south America.
Cenozoic; Geochronology; Mammalia; South America; Stratigraphy; Tertiary
The principles and practices employed in establishment and recognition of South American land mammal ages are reviewed along with previous and present concepts of distinguishing time, rock, and faunal units. Previous chronological arrangements of South American Tertiary land mammal faunas are appraised on the basis of recent geological and paleontological data. Twelve South American Tertiary land mammal ages are here recognized [from oldest to youngest, Riochican (middle to late Paleocene); Casamayoran (early Eocene); Mustersan (middle Eocene); Divisaderan (late Eocene); Deseadan (early [to middle?] Oligocene); Colhuehuapian (late Oligocene); Santacrucian (early Miocene); Friasan (middle Miocene); Chasicoan (late Miocene); Huayquerian (latest Miocene); Montehermosan (early to middle Pliocene); and Chapadmalalan (late Pliocene)]. As all except the Friasian were originally defined on the basis of Argentine faunas, these are discussed first and at length, and each is reviewed with discussion of type locality, stratigraphy, type fauna, and faunal correlations. Non-Argentine faunas are then discussed country by country in alphabetical order.
A review is given of radioisotope dates obtained on volcanic rocks (i.e., basalts, tuffs) associated with mammalbearing beds in Argentina. Based on these age determinations and on correlation of the late Tertiary land mammals involved in the interchange between North and South America, a chronology of South American land mammal ages correlated with North American land mammal ages and European marine stages is proposed.
It is concluded that South America was an island continent through most of the Tertiary Period (ca 65 to about 3 Ma). As a result, the land mammal fauna of South America developed in isolation and was dominated by autochthonous endemic groups. Toward the end of the Tertiary (i.e., middle Miocene) a unique faunal balance had been achieved by the descendants of the ancient inhabitants (notoungulates, litopterns, condylarths, astrapotheres, edentates, marsupials) and of later (late Eocene) waif immigrants (caviomorph rodents, platyrrhine primates). A prominent feature of this mammal fauna was the combination of carnivorous and omnivorous marsupials with native placental herbivorous ungulates, subungulates, and edentates.
Sometime during the late Miocene, a limited but important interchange of mammalian taxa between North and South America took place. Procyonids (raccoons and their allies), a group of North American origin, first appear in South America in strata of Huayquerian Age, while members of the extinct South American ground sloth families Megalonychidae and Mylodontidae first appear in North America in early Hemphillian time. These groups dispersed along island arcs before the appearance of the Panamanian land bridge in the Pliocene (ca 3.0 Ma). Cricetine rodents, a group of North American origin, are first known in South America in strata of Montehermosan Age. The known taxa are too advanced and diversified to be considered the first of this group to invade South America. lt is believed by some workers that these rodents arrived before the Montehermosan, possibly in the late Miocene or earlier, by waif dispersal from North America.
The isolation of South America ended with the appearance of the Panamanian land bridge, which provided a direct, dry land connection between the two Americas. Across this portal an extensive interchange of terrestrial faunas occurred, and the fossil record documents an intermingling of these long-separated land mammals faunas.
The beginning of this interchange by land route in South America is marked by the appearance of mammals which evolved from North American emigrants in the Chapadmalal Formation of Argentina. These include a mustelid (Conepatus), a tayassuid (Argyrohyus), and four genera (Akodon, Dankomys, Graomys, Reithrodon) of cricetine rodents. The appearance of this contingent of northern animals favors the existence of the Panamanian land bridge by this time. Likewise, a large number of terrestrial vertebrates of South American origin appear in North America in beds of late Blancan Age date around 2.7 Ma. Among the mammals are Neochoerus, Erethizon, Glyptotherium, Glossotherium, Kraglievichia, and Dasypus.