Journal of Mammalian Evolution

, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 111–125 | Cite as

A New Pliocene Capybara (Rodentia, Caviidae) from Northern South America (Guajira, Colombia), and its Implications for the Great American Biotic Interchange

  • María E. PérezEmail author
  • María C. Vallejo-Pareja
  • Juan D. Carrillo
  • Carlos Jaramillo
Original Paper


One of the most striking components of the modern assemblage of South American mammals is the semiaquatic capybara (Caviidae, Hydrochoerinae), the biggest rodent in the world. The large hydrochoerines are recorded from the middle Miocene to the present, mainly in high latitudes of South America. Although less known, they are also recorded in low latitudes of South America, and in Central and North America. We report the first record of capybaras from the late Pliocene of Colombia, found in deposits of the Ware Formation, Guajira Peninsula in northeastern Colombia. We analyze the phylogenetic position within Caviidae, the possible environmental changes in the Guajira Peninsula, and the implications of this finding for the understanding of the Great American Biotic Interchange. The morphological and phylogenetic analyses indicate that the hydrochoerine of the Guajira Peninsula is a new species, ?Hydrochoeropsis wayuu, and this genus is most closely related to Phugatherium. According to the latest phylogenetic results, this clade is the sister group of the lineage of the recent capybaras (Neochoerus and Hydrochoerus). ?Hydrochoeropsis wayuu is the northernmost South American Pliocene hydrochoerine record and the nearest to the Panamanian bridge. The presence of this hydrochoerine, together with the fluvio-deltaic environment of the Ware Formation, suggests that during the late Pliocene, the environment that dominated the Guajira Peninsula was more humid and with permanent water bodies, in contrast with its modern desert habitats.


Caviomorphs Hydrochoerinae Neogene Neotropics Phylogeny GABI 



We thank François Pujos and Pierre-Olivier Antoine for inviting us to submit a manuscript for the special issue (TREMA Symposium on Cenozoic evolution of Tropical-Equatorial mammals; IPC 4, Mendoza, 2014). Thanks to María Guiomar Vucetich and Cecilia Deschamps (MLP) for critical comments that enhanced the quality of this manuscript, and Bruce Patterson for access to Zoology Collection of FMNH. We are grateful to support from the Smithsonian Institution, the National Geographic Society, Universidad del Norte, the Anders Foundation, Gregory D. and Jennifer Walston Johnson, Marcelo R. Sánchez-Villagra and the Evolutionary Morphology and Palaeobiology of Vertebrates group at the University of Zurich, the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF 31003 A-149605 to M.R. Sánchez-Villagra), and the National Science Foundation (grant EAR 0957679). Thanks to Carlos Rosero for managing all the logistics in the field, and to Liliana Londoño and Maria Inés Barreto for administrative and logistic support. Thanks to the Wayúu community for allowing us access to their lands and for their support during the field work, the Colombian National Police (Castilletes base), and all the members of the field team, in particular F. Moreno, J.W. Moreno, and V. Zapata, who found the first specimens.

Supplementary material

10914_2016_9356_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (63 kb)
Online Resource 1 Combined matrix of morphological and molecular dataset from Madozzo-Jaén and Pérez (2016). (PDF 63 kb)
10914_2016_9356_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (162 kb)
Online Resource 2 Morphological character list from Madozzo-Jaén and Pérez (2016). (PDF 161 kb)
10914_2016_9356_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (251 kb)
Online Resource 3 Unambiguous synapomorphies list. (PDF 251 kb)
10914_2016_9356_MOESM4_ESM.pdf (171 kb)
Online Resource 4 List of the most derived hydrochoerines taxa and occurrences downloaded from the Paleobiology Database (PDF 170 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • María E. Pérez
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • María C. Vallejo-Pareja
    • 3
    • 4
  • Juan D. Carrillo
    • 5
  • Carlos Jaramillo
    • 3
  1. 1.CONICET, Museo Paleontológico Egidio FeruglioTrelewArgentina
  2. 2.Researcher Associate Field Museum of Natural HistoryChicagoUSA
  3. 3.Smithsonian Tropical Research InstitutePanama CityRepublic of Panama
  4. 4.Department of Biological SciencesSam Houston State UniversityHuntsvilleUSA
  5. 5.Paläontologisches Institut und MuseumUniversity of ZurichZurichSwitzerland

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