BIOCHRONOLOGICAL RELATIONSHIPS OF THE EARLIEST SOUTH AMERICAN PALEOGENE MAMMALIAN FAUNAS

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Abstract

Abstract:  The oldest Cenozoic mammalian assemblages in South America have been recovered from levels of the Hansen Member of the Salamanca Formation, Punta Peligro locality in Argentina, and from the Santa Lucía Formation in Tiupampa, Bolivia. These faunas led to the recognition of the Peligran and Tiupampan South American Land Mammal Ages (SALMAs), each alternatively regarded as the oldest Paleocene SALMA. Due to the lack of radioisotopic dates for mammals bearing levels at these localities, no agreement has been reached yet about their relative ages. In this paper, the role of mammal faunas in age inference is discussed. Analysis of the SALMAs shows that the presence of non-therian mammals in the Peligran is of little consequence to the biochronological evaluation, reflecting instead a relict Mesozoic distribution. In contrast, therian mammals are particularly important in that (1) they were Lauraisan immigrants and (2) they support direct comparisons between the Tiupampa and Punta Peligro faunas. Parsimony and cluster analysis were used to quantitatively test hypotheses concerning the relative age of the Peligran and Tiupampan SALMAs. Our results support the hypothesis that the Tiupampan SALMA (early Danian) is older than the Peligran SALMA (early Selandian). This alignment results in an interpretation of the evolutionary history of South American land mammals that is more straightforward than the alternative.

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