, Volume 91, Issue 2, pp 245–271 | Cite as

Xibalbaonyx oviceps, a new megalonychid ground sloth (Folivora, Xenarthra) from the Late Pleistocene of the Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico, and its paleobiogeographic significance

  • Sarah R. StinnesbeckEmail author
  • Eberhard Frey
  • Jerónimo Avíles Olguín
  • Wolfgang Stinnesbeck
  • Patrick Zell
  • Heinrich Mallison
  • Arturo González González
  • Eugenio Aceves Núñez
  • Adriana Velázquez Morlet
  • Alejandro Terrazas Mata
  • Martha Benavente Sanvicente
  • Fabio Hering
  • Carmen Rojas Sandoval
Research Paper


Here we describe a new genus and species of giant ground sloth, Xibalbaonyx oviceps (Megalonychidae, Xenarthra), from the drowned cave system of the northeastern Yucatán Peninsula. The specimen is Late Pleistocene in age and was discovered in the Zapote sinkhole (cenote) near Puerto Morelos in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. Xibalbaonyx oviceps differs significantly from all hitherto known Megalonychidae including those from the Greater Antilles and South America. The new taxon suggests a local Caribbean radiation of ground sloths during the Late Pleistocene, which is consistent with the dispersal of the group along a Mexican corridor.


Ground sloths Pleistocene Yucatán Peninsula Mexico 


Die Unterwasserhöhlen auf der nordöstlichen Halbinsel Yukatan zeigen eine artenreiche Ansammlung von Großsäugern aus dem späten Pleistozän und frühen Holozän. Hier beschreiben wir die neue Gattung und Art eines Riesenfaultiers, Xibalbaonyx oviceps (Megalonychidae, Xenarthra), aus der Zapote Doline (Cenote) in der Nähe von Puerto Morelos im mexikanischen Bundesstaat Quintana Roo. Das Exemplar unterscheidet sich signifikant von allen bisher dokumentierten Megalonychidae einschließlich derjenigen von den Großen Antillen und aus Südamerika. Das neue Taxon deutet auf eine lokale karibische Radiation von Bodenfaultieren währen des Spätpleistozäns hin, die mit der Ausbreitung der Gruppe entlang des mexikanischen Korridors übereinstimmt.


Bodenfaultiere Pleistozän Yukatan Halbinsel Mexiko 



Identification and registration of submerged prehistoric caves in Quintana Roo, Mexico, was only possible due to the support of cave divers of the region. Without their collaboration and dedicated participation in our work, this research would not have been possible. The Zapote sinkhole was first explored by Technical Diving Instructor Vicente Fito, but other cave divers assisted in the documentation, mapping and collection: Valentina Cucchiara, Alejandro Martinez, Vincenzo Biroli, Luz María Guzman Fernandez, Luis Alberto Sanchez Navarro, David Orozco Pizano and Ben McGeever. We also thank CINDAQ Volunteers for their underwater cave survey and cartography. We particularly acknowledge the Zapote Ecoparque Owners Mrs. Rosario Fátima González Alcocer and Mr. Santos Zuñiga Roque for their trust in our work. The Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH) centro Quintana Roo, supported the Project “Estudios de los grupos humanos preceramicos de la costa oriental de Quintana Roo, México, a través de los contextos actualmente inundados”. We gratefully acknowledge financial support by the Internationales Büro of the German Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF Projects 01DN119) and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG Project STI 128/28-1). We also would like to thank the two reviewers Dr. Pujos and Dr. Brandoni for their constructive comments and many helpful suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Paläontologische Gesellschaft 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sarah R. Stinnesbeck
    • 1
    Email author
  • Eberhard Frey
    • 1
  • Jerónimo Avíles Olguín
    • 2
  • Wolfgang Stinnesbeck
    • 3
  • Patrick Zell
    • 4
  • Heinrich Mallison
    • 5
  • Arturo González González
    • 6
  • Eugenio Aceves Núñez
    • 2
  • Adriana Velázquez Morlet
    • 7
  • Alejandro Terrazas Mata
    • 8
  • Martha Benavente Sanvicente
    • 8
  • Fabio Hering
    • 3
  • Carmen Rojas Sandoval
    • 7
  1. 1.Geowissenschaftliche AbteilungStaatliches Museum für Naturkunde KarlsruheKarlsruheGermany
  2. 2.Instituto de la Prehistoria de AméricaSolidaridadMexico
  3. 3.Institut für GeowissenschaftenRuprecht-Karls-Universität HeidelbergHeidelbergGermany
  4. 4.Abteilung für NaturgeschichteHessisches Landesmuseum DarmstadtDarmstadtGermany
  5. 5.Museum für Naturkunde – Leibniz-Institut für Evolutions- und BiodiversitätsforschungBerlinGermany
  6. 6.Museo del Desierto, Carlos Abedrop Dávila 3745Nuevo Centro Metropolitano de SaltilloSaltilloMexico
  7. 7.Instituto Nacional de Antropología e HistoriaTulúmMexico
  8. 8.Área de Prehistoria y Evolución del Instituto de Investigaciones Antropológicas de la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoUNAMCoyacánMexico

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