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South American Mammal Zoogeography: Evidence from Convergent Evolution in Desert Rodents

Michael A. Mares
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Vol. 72, No. 5 (May, 1975), pp. 1702-1706
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/64566
Page Count: 5
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South American Mammal Zoogeography: Evidence from Convergent Evolution in Desert Rodents
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Abstract

Current theories regarding colonization of South America by mammals are divided between those supported by fossil evidence, which suggest the original mammal fauna of the isolated continent was augmented by early immigrants (primates, caviomorph rodents, and later, procyonids) with a final large influx of northern mammals occurring with the formation of the Panama land bridge, and an opposing view which states that the purported ``recent invaders'' are too taxonomically and ecologically differentiated to have colonized since the land bridge arose. The second theory suggests that most extant mammals entered before the Plio-Pleistocene land connection. An analysis of degree of physiological adaptation, natural history, distribution patterns, and a multivariate assessment of convergent evolution of Monte Desert rodents indicate that South American cricetine rodents are not highly specialized for desert life. Their degree of adaptation could be accounted for, in large part, by adaptations for arid or semiarid Andean habitats. No Monte Desert rodent has developed the specialized desert traits that have evolved in most desert rodent faunas of the world, although extinct marsupials similar to living bipedal desert rodents were present in the Monte as recently as late Pliocene. Evidence suggests that Monte caviomorphs have been associated with the desert for a longer period than cricetines, and that the latter represent a fairly recent invasion of the Monte Desert. The data thus support the first hypothesis of South American mammal colonization.

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