Marcelo R Sánchez-Villagra

Marcelo R Sánchez-Villagra
University of Zurich | UZH · Institut für Paläontologie und Paläontologisches Museum

About

388
Publications
138,122
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8,148
Citations
Additional affiliations
December 2006 - present
University of Zurich
Position
  • Professor (Associate)
December 2006 - present
University of Zurich
Position
  • Professor (Associate)

Publications

Publications (388)
Article
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The Muaco and Taima-Taima sites, in Falcón State of northwestern Venezuela, are among the earliest sites of human occupation in South America containing artifacts associated with preserved megafaunal remains and dating between 19,810 and 15,780 calybp. Here we report novel visual and CT scanning analysis of six glyptodont skulls of Glyptotherium cf...
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Millions of people across the world have been exposed to the wildlife documentaries of David Attenborough and Bernhard Grzimek, who have thus greatly influenced the public’s views on nature and biodiversity. We investigated the way organisms’ biology is portrayed in these documentaries, quantifying different types of animal interactions shown. We e...
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Domestication leads to phenotypic characteristics that have been described to be similar across species. However, this "domestication syndrome" has been subject to debate, related to a lack of evidence for certain characteristics in many species. Here we review diverse literature and provide new data on cranial shape changes due to domestication in...
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Cross-cultural studies of humans using methods developed in evolutionary biology and comparative linguistics are flourishing. ‘Cultural macroevolution’ has great potential to address fundamental questions of cultural transformation and human history. But this field is poorly integrated with core cultural anthropology, although both aim in part at a...
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We studied the mass growth trajectories of middle ear ossicles and tympanic membrane and oval window area in 19 specimens of postnatal ages 30–180 days of the gray short-tailed opossum Monodelphis domestica . We weighed the skull mass and the mass of the three middle ear ossicles with appropriate balances. Using a binocular microscope provided with...
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Background Domestication, including selective breeding, can lead to morphological changes of biomechanical relevance. In birds, limb proportions and sternum characteristics are of great importance and have been studied in the past for their relation with flight, terrestrial locomotion and animal welfare. In this work we studied the effects of domes...
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Optimal egg size theory assumes that changes in the egg and clutch are driven by selection, resulting in adjustments for the largest possible production of offspring with the highest fitness. Evidence supports the idea that large-bodied turtles tend to produce larger clutches with small and round eggs, while smaller species produce small clutches w...
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The scutes of the carapace of extant turtles exhibit common elements in a narrow range of topographical arrangements. The typical arrangement has remained constant since its origin in the clade Mesochelydia (Early Jurassic), after a period of apparent greater diversity in the Triassic. This contribution is a review of the development and evolutiona...
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Domestication had a dramatic influence on the cultural evolution of human histories, and on the biological evolution of domesticated species. Domestic dogs occurred earlier in the Americas than other domesticated animals. Older records in the continent come from North America, dated 11 000-8400 years BP, and in the Andes from 5600-5000 years BP. In...
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Comparisons of wild and domestic populations have established brain reduction as one of the most consistent patterns correlated with domestication. Over a century of scholarly work has been devoted to this subject, and yet, new data continue to foster its debate. Current arguments, both for and against the validity of brain reduction occurring in d...
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We report and describe the new left premaxillary bone of the basal ornithischian Laquintasaura venezuelae coming from a bonebed of the La Quinta Formation in the Andes of Venezuela. Previous dating of the bonebed based on U-Pb zircon analysis suggested an earliest Jurassic (Hettangian) maximum age. To our knowledge, for the first-time high-resoluti...
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Musical instruments provide material evidence to study the diversity and technical innovation of music in space and time. We employed a cultural evolutionary perspective to analyse organological data and their relation to language groups and population history in South America, a unique and complex geographic area for human evolution. The ethnologi...
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Synopsis “Brachycephaly” is generally considered a phenotype in which the facial part of the head is pronouncedly shortened. While brachycephaly is characteristic for some domestic varieties and breeds (e.g., Bulldog, Persian cat, Niata cattle, Anglo-Nubian goat, Middle White pig), this phenotype can also be considered pathological. Despite the sup...
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The neural crest hypothesis posits that selection for tameness resulted in mild alterations to neural crest cells during embryonic development, which directly or indirectly caused the appearance of traits associated with the “domestication syndrome” (DS). Although representing an appealing unitary explanation for the generation of domestic phenotyp...
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Domestication provides an outstanding opportunity for biologists to explore the underpinnings of organismal diversification. In domesticated animals, selective breeding for exaggerated traits is expected to override genetic correlations that normally modulate phenotypic variation in nature. Whether this strong directional selection affects the sequ...
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Cattle are one of the most intensively bred domestic animals, providing humans with a multitude of products and uses. Using data from the fossil record, we test if their domestication, as for other taxa, has resulted in a reduction of their brain size. We not only conclude that Bos taurus (domestic cattle) have smaller brains than their wild ancest...
Article
Nineteen species of wild canids interact with humans in the Americas in different ways. The zooarchaeological record of burials, shifts in diet, abundance at sites, and ethnological information document the various kinds of interactions of canids and humans in the Americas. However, none of these native canid species has been domesticated. To under...
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Background Birds exhibit an enormous diversity in adult skull shape (disparity), while their embryonic chondrocrania are considered to be conserved across species. However, there may be chondrocranial features that are diagnostic for bird clades or for Aves as a whole. We synthesized and analyzed information on the sequence of chondrification of 23...
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The Pliocene–Pleistocene transition in the Neotropics is poorly understood despite the major climatic changes that occurred at the onset of the Quaternary. The San Gregorio Formation, the younger unit of the Urumaco Sequence, preserves a fauna that documents this critical transition. We report stingrays, freshwater bony fishes, amphibians, crocodil...
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The dense Miocene record of cetaceans is known from localities along the coasts of all continents, mostly in the northern Atlantic or the eastern Pacific regions, but Antarctica. Fossils from the Caribbean region are few and include of a couple of findings from Panama and Venezuela. Here, we report a partly complete skull from the Caujarao Formatio...
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Patterns of selection in South American camelids (Lamini) and their unique demographic history establish the llama and alpaca as remarkable cases of domestication among large herd animals. Skull shape is implicated in many changes reported between wild and domestic taxa. We apply 3D geometric morphometric methods to describe skull shape, form, and...
Preprint
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Background Islands offer a classic topic for evolutionary studies. Few other subjects have historically raised as much fascination as the island large mammals that having evolved into dwarfs. Consensus has been gained that multivariate ecological causes are behind those changes, but what remains largely unexplored are the processes involved. Recent...
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We describe a well-preserved South American Lamini partial skeleton (PIMUZ A/V 4165) from the Ensenadan (~ 1.95–1.77 to 0.4 Mya) of Argentina. The specimen is comprised of a nearly complete skull and mandible with full tooth rows, multiple elements of anterior and posterior limbs, and a scapula. We tested this specimen’s phylogenetic position and h...
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Bacterial, viral, and parasitic zoonotic diseases are transmitted to humans from a wide variety of animal species that act as reservoir hosts for the causative organisms. Zoonoses contribute an estimated 75% of new or reemerging infectious diseases in humans. All groups of mammals have been shown to act as hosts for transmission of different organi...
Preprint
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Records of domestic dogs in the Americas include specimens from North American sites dating as far back as 10,000 to 8,400 ybp and from the Andes of South America from 5,600-5,000 ybp. Dogs accompanied humans in several migrations from Asia to America BCE, as revealed by different haplotypes reported from ancient DNA studies. Dog acquisition by Ama...
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The panpipe is a musical instrument composed of end-blown tubes of different lengths tied together. They can be traced back to the Neolithic, and they have been found at prehistoric sites in China, Europe and South America. Panpipes display substantial variation in space and time across functional and aesthetic dimensions. Finding similarities in p...
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OPINION. La relation entre pandémie et destruction des écosystèmes est maintenant bien établie, mais elle est trop ignorée par le grand public et les instances de décision, écrivent plus de 120 scientifiques, dont deux Prix Nobel, dans une tribune collective
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Organismal development is defined by progressive transformations that ultimately give rise to distinct tissues and organs. Thus, temporal shifts in ontogeny often reflect key phenotypic differences in phylogeny. Classical theory predicts that interspecific morphological divergence originates towards the end of embryonic or fetal life stages, i.e. t...
Article
Paläobiologen der Universität Zürich haben in Venezuela und Kolumbien Überreste einer ausgestorbenen Süsswasser-Schildkröte entdeckt. Das Reptil namens Stupendemys geographicus ist die grösste bekannte Schildkrötenart. Ihr Panzer ist 2,4 bis fast 3 Meter lang. Zudem hatte die Panzerschale der Männchen Hörner – eine Seltenheit bei Schildkröten. Der...
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The ecomorphological diversity of caviomorph rodents in South America included giant forms, such as the chinchilloid Neoepiblema acreensis from the Upper Miocene of Brazil. The evolution of the brain anatomy and size of these animals can be now studied with non-invasive imaging techniques and exceptional fossils. Caviomorphs show diversity in the t...
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Despite being among the largest turtles that ever lived, the biology and systematics of Stupendemys geographicus remain largely unknown because of scant, fragmentary finds. We describe exceptional specimens and new localities of S. geographicus from the Miocene of Venezuela and Colombia. We document the largest shell reported for any extant or exti...
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The vertebrate skull varies widely in shape, accommodating diverse strategies of feeding and predation. The braincase is composed of several flat bones that meet at flexible joints called sutures. Nearly all vertebrates have a prominent ‘coronal’ suture that separates the front and back of the skull. This suture can develop entirely within mesoderm...
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The number of precaudal vertebrae in all extant crocodylians is remarkably conservative, with nine cervicals, 15 dorsals and two sacrals, a pattern present also in their closest extinct relatives. The consistent vertebral count indicates a tight control of axial patterning by Hox genes during development. Here we report on a deviation from this pat...
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The largest antlers of any known deer species belonged to the extinct giant deer Megaloceros giganteus. It has been argued that their antlers were too large for use in fighting, instead being used only in ritualized displays to attract mates. Here, we used finite-element analysis to test whether the antlers of M. giganteus could have withstood forc...
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Background Much of the shape variation found in animals is based on allometry and heterochrony. Horses represent an excellent model to investigate patterns of size-shape variation among breeds that were intentionally bred for extreme small and large sizes. Methods We tested whether ponies (wither height < 148 cm) have a diverging size-shape relati...
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The extinct clade of caviomorph rodents Neoepiblemidae includes forms that lived in South America from the early Miocene to Pliocene. Among them is Perimys. The exceptional preservation of ear ossicles in this rodent is described and analyzed in a study of the phylogenetic transformations of these structures in caviomorphs including 21 extant and t...
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The domestication of the fowl resulted in a large diversity of integumental structures in chicken breeds. Several integumental traits have been investigated from a developmental genetics perspective. However, their distribution among breeds and their developmental morphology remain unexplored. We constructed a discrete trait‐breed matrix and conduc...
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We critically review diverse literature on the cranial development in chicken, aiming at identifying potential areas of research in chon-drocranial diversity that may relate to adult variation. Independent of the method used, there is general agreement regarding the onset of most chondrocranial elements. Inconsistencies in the literature concern th...
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Background: The branchiostegal series consists of an alignment of bony elements in the posterior portion of the skull of osteichthyan vertebrates. We trace the evolution of the number of elements in a comprehensive survey that includes 440 extant and 66 extinct species. Using a newly updated actinopterygian tree in combination with phylogenetic co...
Article
“Self‐domestication” has been invoked to understand important aspects of human evolution, integrating physiological, behavioral, and morphological information in a novel way. It proposes that selection for reduced aggression on animals undergoing domestication provides a model for selection favoring prosocial behaviors in humans and for a set of se...
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One of the best-known faunal assemblages that characterizes the past ecosystems from South America comes from the Santa Cruz Formation in Argentina. This assemblage is formed by an endemic fauna, which included ground sloths, glyptodonts, native ungulates, terror birds (phorusrhacids), among others. The Santacrucian South American Land Mammal Age i...
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Gavialoidea is a clade of slender- and long-snouted crocodylomorphs with a single living species, the Indian gharial Gavialis gangeticus. Because elongated snouts (longirostry) have evolved independently in several crocodylomorph clades, this head shape has been interpreted as an ecological adaptation. How this condition affected patterns of divers...
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Background. The study of chondrocrania has a long tradition with a focus on single specimens and stages. It revealed great interspecific diversity and a notion of intraspecific variation. As an embryonic structure, the chondrocranium is subject to major changes in ontogeny with resorption and ossification of different cartilaginous structures. The...
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The abundance of skeletal remains of cave bears in Pleistocene deposits can offer crucial information on the biology and life history of this megafaunal element. The histological study of 62 femora from 23 different European localities and comparisons with specimens of five extant ursid species revealed novel data on tissue types and growth pattern...
Data
List of investigated specimens (with their ontogenetic stage and locality) and related histomorphometrical measurements. (XLSX)
Data
Averaged inter-LAG distances by species or locality for U. spelaeus s.l. (XLSX)
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BACKGROUND: †Saurichthyiformes were a successful group of latest Permian-Middle Jurassic predatory actinopterygian fishes and constituted important, widely-distributed components of Triassic marine and freshwater faunas. Their systematic affinities have long been debated, with †saurichthyiforms often being aligned with chondrosteans, a group today...
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The process of domestication has long fascinated evolutionary biologists, yielding insights into the rapidity with which selection can alter behaviour and morphology. Previous studies on dogs, cattle and pigeons have demonstrated that domesticated forms show greater magnitudes of morphological variation than their wild ancestors. Here, we quantify...