Journal of Mammalian Evolution

, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 5–17 | Cite as

Western Amazonia as a Hotspot of Mammalian Biodiversity Throughout the Cenozoic

  • Pierre-Olivier Antoine
  • Rodolfo Salas-Gismondi
  • François Pujos
  • Morgan Ganerød
  • Laurent Marivaux
Original Paper


A state-of-the-art review of the Cenozoic fossil record from Western Amazonia is provided, based on literature and new data (regarding Paleogene native ungulates). It allows summarizing the evolution and dynamics of middle Eocene–Holocene mammalian guilds, at the level of species, families, and orders. Major gaps in the Western Amazonian mammal record occur in the pre-Lutetian and early Miocene intervals, and in the Pliocene epoch. Twenty-three orders, 89 families, and 320 species are recognized in the fossil record, widely dominated by eutherians from the middle Eocene onward. Probable Allotheria (Gondwanatheria) occur only in the earliest interval, whereas Metatheria and Eutheria are conspicuous components of any assemblage. Taxonomic diversity was probably fairly constant at the ordinal level (~12–14 orders in each time slice considered) and much more variable in terms of family and species richness: if most intervals are characterized by 40–50 co-occurring species and 19–31 co-occurring families, the early Miocene period illustrates a depauperate fauna (21 species, 17 families), strongly contrasting with the late Miocene climactic guild (82 species, 38 families). Recent mammalian taxonomic diversity from Western Amazonia (12 orders, 37 families, and 286 species) is at odds with all past intervals, as it encompasses only three orders of South American origin (Didelphimorphia, Cingulata, and Pilosa) but four North American immigrant orders (Artiodactyla, Perissodactyla, Carnivora, and Lagomorpha). In terms of taxonomic diversity, recent mammalian guilds are fully dominated by small-sized taxa (Chiroptera, Rodentia, and Primates). This overview also confirms the scarcity of large mammalian flesh-eaters in ancient Neotropical mammalian assemblages. The pattern and the timing of mammalian dispersals from northern landmasses into Western Amazonia are not elucidated yet.


Amazonian lowlands Neotropics mammalian guilds Biochronology Paleobiodiversity Historical geography 



We are grateful to anybody who has helped us in the field. Fieldwork was funded by the Toulouse University (SPAM Project), by the Paleo2 Program of the CNRS, by the Leakey Foundation, by the National Geographic Society (Grant #9679-15), and by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This work was further supported by an “Investissements d’Avenir” grant managed by the Agence Nationale de la Recherche (CEBA, ANR-10-LABX-25-01). We are indebted to the Organizing Committee of the 4th International Palaeontological Congress, Mendoza, 2014 and to John R. Wible and Tim J. Gaudin for allowing us and publishing this work in the Journal of Mammalian Evolution. We warmly thank two anonymous reviewers and the Editor-in-Chief for their constructive remarks on a previous version of the manuscript, and for having provided invaluable references for the fossil record of southwestern Brazil. This is ISEM-2016-056-Sud publication.

Supplementary material

10914_2016_9333_MOESM1_ESM.doc (873 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 873 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pierre-Olivier Antoine
    • 1
  • Rodolfo Salas-Gismondi
    • 1
    • 2
  • François Pujos
    • 3
  • Morgan Ganerød
    • 4
  • Laurent Marivaux
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut des Sciences de l’Evolution, cc64Université de Montpellier, CNRS, IRD, EPHEMontpellierFrance
  2. 2.Departamento de Paleontología de VertebradosMuseo de Historia Natural–Universidad Nacional Mayor San MarcosLima 11Peru
  3. 3.IANIGLA, CCT–CONICET–MendozaParque General San MartínArgentina
  4. 4.Geological Survey of NorwayTrondheimNorway

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