Testing the hypothesis of an impoverished predator guild in the Early Miocene ecosystems of Patagonia: An analysis of meat availability and competition intensity among carnivores
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© 2020 Elsevier B.V. The lower Miocene Santa Cruz Formation (dated to ~18–16 Ma) of Southern Patagonia, Argentina, preserves rich vertebrate faunas, which are representative of communities that existed prior to the Great American Biotic Interchange (GABI). Some previous researchers have hypothesized that these pre-GABI faunas had a low richness of mammalian carnivores (an impoverished predator guild), while others argue for a predator/prey ratio similar to those of recent communities. In this paper, we analyze faunas from the lower part of the Santa Cruz Formation (FL 1–7) using a methodology that allows us to quantify (i) the meat resources that were available to the secondary consumers of the palaeocommunity; and (ii) the competition intensity for these resources. In our modeling, we considered different scenarios related to meat consumption, including the possibility that several taxa had a scavenging behavior, and also differences in mortality rates between young and adult prey. Our results provide estimates of the nutritional requirements from the predator/scavenger guild under maximum and minimum quantities of meat offered by the prey community, which indicate the presence of a well-balanced palaeocommunity. Moreover, the competition indices point to a relatively high level of competition for prey of small-to-medium size, although competition for resources from large mammal prey was rather low. This suggests that the predator/scavenger guild was not impoverished, although there were insufficient carnivore species to fully consume the megaherbivore biomass.
Published Version (Please cite this version)
Rodríguez-Gómez, G, GH Cassini, P Palmqvist, MS Bargo, N Toledo, JA Martín-González, NA Muñoz, RF Kay, et al. (2020). Testing the hypothesis of an impoverished predator guild in the Early Miocene ecosystems of Patagonia: An analysis of meat availability and competition intensity among carnivores. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 554. pp. 109805–109805. 10.1016/j.palaeo.2020.109805 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/21360.
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I have two areas of research:1) the evolution of primates in South America; and 2) the use of primate anatomy to reconstruct the phylogenetic history and adapations of living and extinct primates, especially Anthropoidea.
1) Evolution of primates and mammalian faunal evolution, especially in South America. For the past 30 years, I have been engaged in research in Argentina, Bolivia The Dominican Republic, Peru, and Colombia with three objectives:a) to reconstruct the evolutionary history and adaptive patterns of South America primates and other mammals; b) to establish a more precise geologic chronology for the mammalian faunas between the late Eocene and middle Miocene (between about 36 and about 15 million years ago); and c) to use anatomy and niche structure of modern mammals as a means to reconstruct the evolution of mammalian niche structure in the Neotropics.
2) Primate Anatomy. I am working to reconstruct the phylogeny of primates based (principally) on anatomical evidence; and to infer the adaptations of extinct primates based mainly on cranial and dental evidence.
Current fieldwork is focused on the study of terrestrial biotic change in Patagonia through the 'mid-Miocene Climate Optimum' when global climate was moderate and the subtropical zone, with primates and other typically tropical vertebrates, extended their ranges up to 55 degrees of South latitude.
In this collaborative research undertaking with colleagues at University of Washington and Boise State University, the geochronology of the Santa Cruz Formation at in extreme southern Argentina is being refined using radiometric dating. Stratigraphically-controlled collections have been made of vertebrates and plant macro- and microfossils. Climate change and its impact on the biota is assessed 1) using biogeochemical analysis of stable isotopes in fossil mammalian tooth enamel; 2) by documenting changes in mammalian community structure (richness, origination and extinction rates, and ecological morphology); and 3) by documenting changes in vegetation and floral composition through the study of phytoliths. These three independent lines of evidence in a refined geochronologic framework will then be compared with similar evidence from continental sequences in the Northern Hemisphere and oceanic climatic records to improve our understanding of the timing and character of climatic change in continental high latitudes during this temporal interval.
A second field project project in its early stages is the study of the fossil vertebrates of the Amazon Basin. The latter is a collaborative effort of biologists and geologists across schools at Duke (Nicholas School) and among six North American universities. My role is to direct the vertebrate paleontology component of this project in Brazil and Amazonian Peru. The hope is to recover primates from the Oligocene through Early Miocene. New material will shed light on the phylogenetic status of African Paleogene anthropoids, one of which may be the platyrrhine sister-taxon. Also, new remains of fossil primates will help to refine hypotheses about the origins of the modern families and subfamilies of platyrrhines, all of which trace back to an Early Miocene (17-21 Ma) common ancestor. Finally, new fossil primates may further constrain the time of entry of platyrrhines into South America.
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