Mammals and stratigraphy of the continental mammal-bearing Quarternary of South America
Geochronology; Mammalia; Quaternary; South America; Stratigraphy
Previous chronological arrangements of South American Quaternary land mammal faunas are appraised on the basis of current geological and paleontological data. Three South American late Pliocene-Pleistocene land mammal ages are conventionally recognized, from oldest to youngest, the Uquian, Ensenadan, and Lujanian ; all are defined on Argentine faunas.
The Uquian is based fundamentally and historically on the fauna from the Uquía Formation in Jujuy Province, northwestern Argentina. Important known formations in Argentina yielding Uquian Age faunas include the sub-surface Puelche Formation (or Puelchense) near the city of Buenos Aires, and the Barranca de Los Lobos and Vorohué Formations between Mar del Plata and Miramar, Buenos Aires Province. A tentative subdivision is propos-ed for the Uquian into three subages based on knowledge of the Mar del Plata-Miramar sequence, from oldest to youngest, the Barrancalobian, Vorohuean, and Sanandresian. In Argentina the Uquian is presently marked by the first known record of Scelidodon, Hydrochoeropsis, Ctenomys, Canidae, Ursidae, Gomphotheriidae, Equidae, Tapiridae, Camelidae, Cervidae, and the last known record of Thylatheridium, Thylophorops, Dankomys, Eumysops, Pithanotomys, Eucoelophorus, Hegetotheriidae, Sparassocynidae, and Microtragulidae.
The Ensenadan Age is based on the fauna from the Ensenada Formation near the city of Ensenada, Buenos Aires Province. In Argentina the Ensenadan is marked by the first known record of Lomaphorus, Neothoracophorus, Plaxhaplous, Cavia, Lyncodon, Lutra, Galera, Smilodon, Dicotyles, Lama, Vicugna, the last known record of Orthomyctera, and the only known record of Brachynasua.
Typícal beds of late Lujanian Age in Argentina consist of fluvial deposits occupying stream channels, and shallow basins, often incised into beds of early Lujanian (i.e. Bonaerian of early workers) and Ensenadan Age. The Lujanian Age is based on a fauna from beds along the Rio Luján, about 65 km west of the city of Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires Province. The Lujanian in Argentina is marked by the first record of Equus, Chlamyphorus, and Holochilus, and the last record of Megatherioidea, Glyptodontoidea, Arctodus (=Arctotherium), Smilodon, Litopterna, Notoungulata, Proboscidea, Equidae, Morenelaphus, and Palaeolama.
These land mammal ages are often difficult to recognize in other South American countries. The compositions of South American Pleistocene faunas vary with the environment. Some taxa were widely distributed in fossil deposits throughout the continent, but their occurrences need not reflect synchroneity. This is a result of changing climates and habitats in time. Consequently, proposed intracontinental correlations need confirmation based on magnetostratigraphy and a radioisotope time scale. Paleontologic characterizations of these land mammal ages (i.e. first and last record, and guide fossils) are useful for much of Argentina, but extensions to most of the other parts of South America are at best tenuous.
The majority of known non-Argentine Pleistocene faunas are believed to be Lujanian in age. Possible non Argentine early Pleistocene (Uquian) faunas include Ayo Ayo and Anzaldo in Bolivia, and Cocha Verde in southern Columbia. A possible middle Pleistocene (Ensenadan or early Lujanian) fauna is the Chichense of Ecuador. Paleomagnetic and radioisotopic date (MacFadden et al., 1983) clearly indicate that the greater part of the Tarija fauna (Bolivia) is Ensenadan in age.
The end of the Pleistocene and beginning of the Holocene in South America is marked by extinction of nearly all large mammalian herbivores and their specialized large predators. Radiocarbon age determinations suggest that large scale extinctions of megafauna occurred between 15,000 and 8,000 yrs. B.P. (years before present).