Ancient Mammals of Gondwanan South America

  • Thomas Defler
Part of the Topics in Geobiology book series (TGBI, volume 42)


This is a synopsis of what is known of South American mammals from the Mesozoic Era, which begins (according to present information) in the Early Jurassic around 183–174 Ma when a triconodont tooth was found in Patagonia. More spectacular additions to the mammalian fauna are known for the Late Jurassic 168–161 million years ago, representing the most completely known biota from Middle to Late Jurassic for South America, comprising australosphenid mammals (relatives of the platypus) and the now extinct triconodont mammals. The Early Cretaceous became known for the increasing number of known fossils. This Cretaceous fauna was dominated in South America by dryolestid mammals, which were closely related to the modern placental mammals. During this latter part of the Mesozoic, a couple of spectacular fossils were found: Vincelestes neuquenianus and Cronopio dentiacutus, both of which are illustrated and discussed in this chapter. This ancient fauna survived the Chicxulub impact (the K/T transition) into the early part of the Paleogene but rather quickly replaced by a more modern fauna (the metatheres and primitive ungulates) that invaded from the north.


  1. Averianov AO, Martin T, Lopatin AV (2013) A new phylogeny for basal Trechnotheria and Cladotheria and affinities of South American endemic Late Cretaceous mammals. Naturwissenschaften 100:311–326CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bertini RJ, Marshall LG, Gayet M, Brito P (1993) Vertebrate faunas from the Adamantina and Marilia formations (upper Baurú Group, Late Cretaceous, Brazil) in their stratigraphic and paleobiographic context. Neues Jahrb Geol P-A 188:71–101Google Scholar
  3. Bonaparte JF (1986a) A new and unusual Late Cretaceous mammal from Patagonia. J Vertebr Paleontol 6(3):264–270CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bonaparte JF (1986b) Sobre Mesungulatum houssayi y nuevos mamíferos Cretácicos de Patagonia, Argentino. IV Congreso Aregentino de Paleontología y Estratigrafía, Actas 2:63–95Google Scholar
  5. Bonaparte JF (1990) New Late Cretaceous mammals from the Los Alamitos Formation, northern Patagonia. Natl Geogr Res 6:63–93Google Scholar
  6. Bonaparte JF (1992) Una nueva especie de Triconodonta (Mammalia), de la Formación Los Alamitos, Provincia de Río Negro y comentarios sobre su fauna de mamíferos. Ameghiniana 29:99–110Google Scholar
  7. Bonaparte JF (2002) New dryolestid (Theria) from the Late Cretaceous of Los Alamitos Formation, Argentina, and paleogeographical comments. Neues Jahrb Geol P-A 224:339–371CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bonaparte JF (2008) On the phyletic relationships of Vincelestes neuquenianus. Hist Biol 20(2):81–86CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cunningham WD, Dalziel WD, Lee T-Y, Lawver LA (1995) Southernmost South America-Antarctic peninsula relative plate motions since 84 Ma: implications for the tectonic evolution of the Scotia Arc region. J Geophys Res 100(B5):8257–8266CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. de la Fuente MS, Salgado L, Albino A, Báez AM, Bonaparte JF, Calvo JO, Chiappe LM, Codorniú LS, Coria RA, Gasparini Z, González R, Novas FE, Pol D (2007) Tetrápodos continentales del Cretácico de la Argentino: una síntesis actualizada. Ameghiniana Publicación Especial 11:137–153Google Scholar
  11. Dettmann ME (1989) Antarctica: Cretaceous cradle of austral temperate rainforests. Geophys Soc London, Special Publications 47:89–105CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Escapa IH, Sterli J, Pol D, Nicoli L (2008) Jurassic tetrapods and flora of Cañadon Asfalto formation in Cerro Cóndor area, Chubut province. Rev Asoc Geol Argent 63(4):613–624Google Scholar
  13. Forasiepi AM, Coria RA, Hurum J, Currie P (2012) First dryolestoid (Mammalia, Dryolestoidea, Meridiolestida) from the Coniacian of Patagonia and new evidence on their early radiation in South America. Ameghiniana 49(4):497–504CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gaetano LC, Rougier GW (2011) New materials of Argentoconodon fariasorum (Mammaliaformes, Triconodontidae) from the Jurassic of Argentina and its bearing on triconodont phylogeny. J Vertebr Paleontol 31(4):829–843CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gaetano LC, Rougier GW (2012) First Amphilestid from South America: a molariform from the Jurassic Cañadón Asfalto formation, Patagonia, Argentina. J Mamm Evol 19:235. Scholar
  16. Gaetano LC, Marsicano CA, Rougier GW (2013) A revision of the putative Late Cretaceous triconodonts from South America. Cretac Res 46:90–100CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gelfo JN, Pascual R (2001) Peligotherium tropicalis (Mammalia, Dryolestida) from the early Paleocene of Patagonia, a survival from a Mesozoic Gondwanan radiation. Geodiversitas 23(3):369–378Google Scholar
  18. Goin FJ, Gelfo JN, Chornogubsky L, Woodburne MO, Marin T (2012a) Origins, radiations, and distribution of South American mammals: from greenhouse to icehouse worlds. In: Patterson BD, Costa LP (eds) Bones, clones, and biomes: the history and geography of recent neotropical mammals. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp 20–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Goin FJ, Tejedor MF, Chornogubsky L, López GM et al (2012b) Persistence of a Mesozoic, non-therian mammalian lineage (Gondwanatheria) in the mid-Paleogene of Patagonia. Naturwissenschaften 99:449–463CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Goin FJ, Woodburne MO, Chornogubsky L (2016) Dispersal of vertebrates from between the Americas, Antarctica, and Australia in the Late Cretaceous and early Cenozoic. In: Goin FJ, Woodburn MO, Zimiez AN, Martin GM, Chornogubsky L (eds) A brief history of South American metatherians: evolutionary contexts and intercontinental dispersals. Springer, New York, pp 77–124CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kielan-Jaworoska Z (2013) In pursuit of early mammals. Indiana University Press, BloomingtonGoogle Scholar
  22. Kielan-Jaworowska Z, Cifelli RL, Luo Z-X (2004) Mammals from the age of dinosaurs: origins, evolution, and structure. Columbia University Press, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kielan-Jaworowska Z, Ortiz-Jaureguizar E, Vieytes C, Pascual R, Goin FJ (2007) First ?cimolodontan multituberculate mammal from South America. Acta Palaeontol Pol 52(2):257–262Google Scholar
  24. Krause DW, Bonaparte JF (1993) Superfamily Gondwanatherioidea: a previously unrecognized radiation of multituberculate mammals in South America. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 90:9379–9383CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Krause DW, Prasad GVR, von Koenigswald W, Sahni A, Grine FE (1997) Cosmopolitanism among Gondwanan Late Cretaceous mammals. Nature 390:504–507CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kümmell S (2014) Range of movement in ray I of manus and pes and the prehensility of the autopodia in the Early Permian to Late Cretaceous non-anomodont synapsida. PLoS One 9(12):e113911. Scholar
  27. Lucas SG, Luo Z (1993) Adelobasileus from the upper Triassic of West Texas: the oldest mammal. J Vertebr Paleontol 13(3):309–334CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Luo Z-X, Cifelli RL, Klelan-Jaworowska Z (2001) Dual origin of tribosphenic mammals. Nature 409:53–57CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Luo Z-X, Kielan-Jaworowska Z, Cifelli RI (2002) In quest for a phylogeny of Mesozoic mammals. Acta Palaeontol Pol 47(1):1–78Google Scholar
  30. Macrini TE, Rougier GW, Rowe T (2007) Description of a cranial endocast from the fossil mammal Vincelestes neuquenianus (Theriiformes) and its relevance to the evolution of endocranial characters in therians. Anat Rec 290:875–892CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Martin T, Rauhut OW (2014) Mandible and dentition of Asfaltomylos patagonicus (Australosphenida, Mammalia) and the evolution of tribosphenic teeth. J Vertebr Paleontol 25(2):414–425CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Pascual R (2006) Evolution and geography: the biogeographic history of South American land mammals. Ann Mo Bot Gard 93:209–230CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Pascual R, Ortiz-Jaureguizar E (1992) Evolutionary pattern of land mammal faunas during the Late Cretaceous and Paleocene in South America: a comparison with the North American pattern. Ann Zool Fenn 28:245–252Google Scholar
  34. Pascual R, Ortiz-Jaureguizar E (2007) The Gondwanan and South American episodes: two major and unrelated moments in the history of the South American mammals. J Mamm Evol 14(2):75–137CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Pascual R, Archer M, Ortiz Jureguizar E, Prado JL, Godthelp H, Hand SJ (1992) First discovery of monotremes in South America. Nature 356:704–706CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Pascual R, Goin FJ, Krause KW et al (1999) The first gnathic remains of Sudamerica: implications for gondwanathere relationships. J Vertebr Paleontol 19(2):373–382. Scholar
  37. Pascual R, Goin FJ, Gonzalez P, Ardolino A, Puerta PF (2000) A highly derived docodont from the Patagonian Late Cretaceous. Geodiversitas 22(3):395–414Google Scholar
  38. Rauhut OWM, Martin T, Ortiz-Jaureguizar E, Puerta P (2002) A Jurassic mammal from South America. Nature 416:165–168CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Rose KD (2006) The beginning of the age of mammals. The Johns Hopkins University Press, BaltimoreGoogle Scholar
  40. Rougier GW, Garrido A, Gaetano L, Puerta PF, Corbitt C, Novacek MJ (2007a) First Jurassic triconodont from South America. Am Mus Novit 3590:1–17CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Rougier GW, Martinelli AG, Forasiepi AM, Novacek MJ (2007b) New Jurassic mammals from Patagonia, Argentina: a reappraisal of australosphenidan morphology and interrelationships. Am Mus Novit 3566:1–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Rougier GW, Chornogubsky L, Casadio S, Paéz Arango N, Giallombardo A (2009) Mammals from the Allen Formation, Late Cretaceous, Argentina. Cretac Res 30:223–238CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Rougier GW, Gaetano L, Bradley D, Colella R, Gómez RO, Arango NP (2010) A review of the Mesozoic mammalian record of South America. In: Calvo J, Porfiri J, Gonzáliez Riga B, Dos Santos D (eds) Paleontologia y dinosaurios desde América Latina. Universidad Nacional del Cuyo, San Rafael, pp 195–213Google Scholar
  44. Rougier GW, Apesteguía S, Gaetano LC (2011) Highly specialized mmmalian skulls from the Late Cretaceous of South America. Nature 479:98. Scholar
  45. Rougier GW, Wible JR, Beck RMD, Apesteguía S (2012) The Miocene mammal Necrolestes demonstrates the survival of a Mesozoic nontherian lineage into the late Cenozoic of South America. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 109(49):20053–20058. Scholar
  46. Scillato–Yané GJ, Pascual R (1985) Un peculiar Xenarthra del Paleoceno medio de Patagonia (Argentina). Su importancia en la sistemática de los Paratheria. Ameghiniana 21:173–176Google Scholar
  47. Tejedor MF, Goin FJ, Gelfo JN, López GM, Bond M, Carlini AA, Scillato-Yané GJ, Woodburne MO, Chornogubsky L, Aragón E, Reguero MA, Czaplewski NJ, Vincon S, Martin GM, Ciancio MR (2009) New early Eocene mammalian fauna from western Patagonia, Argentina. Am Mus Novit 3638:1–48CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Webb SD (2006) The Great American Biotic Interchange: patterns and processes. Ann Mo Bot Gard 93(2):245–257CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Woodburne MO, Case JA (1996) Dispersal, vicariance, and the Late Cretaceous to Early Tertiary land mammal biogeography from South America to Australia. J Mamm Evol 3(2):121–161CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas Defler
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyNational University of Colombia, BogotaBogotaColombia

Personalised recommendations