Journal of Mammalian Evolution

, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 163–183 | Cite as

A New Extinct Genus of Cavioidea (Rodentia, Hystricognathi) from the Miocene of Patagonia (Argentina) and the Evolution of Cavioid Mandibular Morphology

  • María Encarnación Pérez
  • María Guiomar Vucetich
Original Paper


The family Caviidae is represented in modern faunas by cavies and maras, whereas the family Hydrochoeridae is represented by capybaras. The evolutionary origin of these families has been related to a diversity of plesiomorphic fossil forms (recorded from the late Oligocene up to the middle Miocene) traditionally grouped in the family “Eocardiidae”. These fossil forms were included, together with Caviidae and Hydrochoeridae, within the Cavioidea s.s. (sensu stricto), because they share high crowned cheek teeth, double-hearted occlusal surface, short lower incisors, and moderate hystricognathy. Within Cavioidea s.s., caviids and hydrochoerids were interpreted as forming its crown group, because they have unique craniomandibular and dental features. In this contribution, a new taxon of Cavioidea s.s. from the middle Miocene of central Patagonia, Argentina, is described, and its phylogenetic position is determined on the basis of a morphological cladistic analysis in which “eocardiids” were included. The study permits the understanding of the sequence of appearance of characters that originated the highly divergent morphology of crown-group cavioids. The analysis of the sequence of appearance of the characters that traditionally diagnosed the crown group indicates that these changes did not occur at the same time. On the contrary, many of these features seem to have appeared at different nodes of the evolutionary history of Cavioidea s.s. The remarkably derived morphology of modern cavioids is the result of a stepwise appearance of a mosaic of evolutionary innovations that originated gradually along the history of Cavioidea during the late-middle Miocene.


Hystricognathi Cavioidea Phylogeny Neogene South America 



We thank C. Deschamps (MLP) for improving the English version, P. Puerta (MEF) for his technical fieldwork, and L. Reiner (MEF) for laboratory work. Access to SEM lab was possible thanks to ALUAR Aluminio Argentino SAIC and the help of Mr. J. Groizard. We thank the curators E. Ruigómez (MPEF-PV), M. Reguero (MLP-PV), A. Kramarz (MACN-PV), D. Verzi (MLP), D. Romero (MMP), J. Flynn and J. Meng (AMNH), Christopher Norris and D. Brinkman (YPM PU), and K. Wellspring (ACM) for access to material under their care. We are especially thankful to D. Pol for his aid in the phylogenetic analysis. Fieldwork at Río Chico was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation to R. Kay. Fieldwork at El Petiso was funded by Fundación Egidio Feruglio, Ministerio de Educación (Chubut, Argentina). Comparisons with cavioid taxa for the phylogenetic analysis were made possible thanks to the Collection Study Grant (AMNH), an Ostrum Fund Grant (YPM, USA), PICT 38112 (M.G. Vucetich), and Fundación Egidio Feruglio.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • María Encarnación Pérez
    • 1
  • María Guiomar Vucetich
    • 2
  1. 1.Museo Paleontológico Egidio FeruglioTrelewArgentina
  2. 2.Departamento Científico Paleontología de VertebradosMuseo de La PlataLa PlataArgentina

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