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The Alto Río Cisnes Fossil Fauna (Río Frías Formation, Early Middle Miocene, Friasian SALMA): A keystone and paradigmatic vertebrate assemblage of the South American Fossil Record

Authors:
  • Auckland University & University of Wollongong
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... Despite comprehensive studies were developed at low and middle latitudes (e.g. La Venta, Colombia, Kay et al., 1997;Cerdas, Quebrada Honda, Bolivia, Croft, 2007;Croft et al., 2009Croft et al., , 2016, high latitude middle Miocene localities have been analyzed by specific taxonomic works (e.g., Marshall and Salinas, 1990;Vucetich et al., 1993;Martin and Tejedor, 2007;Pérez, 2010;Bostelmann et al., 2012;González Ruiz et al., 2012), lacking integral vertebrate analysis in an adequate geochronological context. This paper examines four new high latitude middle Miocene fossiliferous localities ( Fig. 1) placed in a North Patagonian foreland sequence (Paso del Sapo Basin, Chubut Province, Argentine; Bucher et al., 2018;Bucher et al., 2019a) for which a high-resolution time scheme based on U-Pb zircon ages and magnetostratigraphic data was recently performed (Bucher et al., 2019b). ...
... The fauna coming from the type sequence to the Río Frías Formation, Alto Río Cisnes (Chile; Ameghino, 1906;Roth, 1899;Kraglievich, 1930;Bondesio et al., 1980;Marshall and Salinas, 1990), described the Friasian. This fauna shows affinities with the Santacrucian and Colloncuran SALMAs (e.g., Marshall, 1990;Bond, 1993;Scillato-Yané et al., 1989;Vucetich et al., 1993;Ortiz-Jaureguizar et al., 1993;Bostelmann et al., 2012;, and registers exclusive taxa (Cifelli, 1991;Bostelman et al., 2012;Vera et al., 2019). The calculated dates to the type locality yielded ages of ca. ...
... However, the presence of taxa previously assigned to Colloncuran (e.g., Protacaremys cf. denisae, Massoiamys obliquus, Eocardia robusta, Alloiomys sp., Palyeidodon cf obtusum, Protypotheriun colloncurensis, Pachyrukhos moyani, Peltephilus, Prozaedyus, Stenotatus patagonicus, Proeutatus, and Propalaehoplophorinae) corresponds to the ages obtained for Colloncuran SALMAs in other regions of Patagonia (e.g., Roth, 1899;Vucetich et al., 1993;Bond and García, 2002;Flynn et al., 2008;Bostelmann et al., 2012;Vera et al., 2017;Seoane and Cerdeño, 2019) and Bolivia (e.g. Croft, 2007;Croft et al., 2009;. ...
Article
The Miocene represents a key moment in the South American evolution, since meaningful geographic and climatic processes occurred, promoting the development of several biologic changes. The isolation of South America together with major global and regional climatic changes resulted in an enormous variety of biomes and endemic diversity of flora and fauna, especially of mammals diversity. Most of the best-known continental vertebrate fossil-bearing deposits correspond to the early and late Miocene, existing a deficient knowledge for the middle Miocene, which is poorly understood at high latitudes. This work examines four new middle Miocene fossiliferous localities from a North Patagonian foreland succession, through a multidisciplinary approach that combines stratigraphic and preliminary paleontological analyses within a previously defined high-resolution temporal scheme. Two localities are referred to the lower section of Collón Cura Formation, and were constrained to a range of 14.6-12.75 Ma, whereas the other two localities correspond to the upper section of Collón Cura Formation and were constrained to 12.75-12.05 Ma. A large variety of fossil vertebrates were recognized in the lower section, belonging to Teleostei, Testudinidae, Teiidae, Anura and Mammalia; whereas Teleostei, Testudinidae and Mammalia vertebrates were documented in the upper section. Our results indicate a Collon-curan and younger (e.g., Mayoan) South American Mammals Ages (SALMAs) for the lower and upper sections of Collón Cura Formation, respectively. However, data from this work support the idea of a continuum on the SALMAs sequence for the middle Miocene where overlap, at least partially, both in absolute dates and in the faunal assemblages.
... The Río Frías Formation is a 131 m thick succession of tuffs, tuffaceous siltstones, sandstones, and conglomerates (Marshall and Salinas, 1990;De la Cruz and Cortés, 2011), containing abundant fossils of vertebrates, scarce remains of carbonized plants (Ameghino, 1906;Bostelmann et al., 2012a, b;Bobé et al., 2015), and several paleosoil intervals with abundant insect traces that characterize the Coprinisphaera ichnofacies (Bostelmann et al., 2012a, b;Bellosi et al., 2014). The Río Frías Formation was deposited in a fluvial environment (Marshall and Salinas, 1990), with abundant tuffs and pyroclastic material that requires the onset of possible nearby explosive volcanism (De la Cruz and Cortés, 2011). ...
... The Río Frías Formation is a 131 m thick succession of tuffs, tuffaceous siltstones, sandstones, and conglomerates (Marshall and Salinas, 1990;De la Cruz and Cortés, 2011), containing abundant fossils of vertebrates, scarce remains of carbonized plants (Ameghino, 1906;Bostelmann et al., 2012a, b;Bobé et al., 2015), and several paleosoil intervals with abundant insect traces that characterize the Coprinisphaera ichnofacies (Bostelmann et al., 2012a, b;Bellosi et al., 2014). The Río Frías Formation was deposited in a fluvial environment (Marshall and Salinas, 1990), with abundant tuffs and pyroclastic material that requires the onset of possible nearby explosive volcanism (De la Cruz and Cortés, 2011). ...
... However, Marshall (1990) and Marshall and Salinas (1990) correlated the Friasian and Santacrucian SALMAs (16.3-17.5 Ma according to Flynn and Swisher, 1995), based principally in their study of fossil marsupials from the Alto del Río Cisnes section and an Ar-Ar date of ~17 Ma from this locality (Flynn et al., 1989). Bostelmann et al. (2012a, b) proposed instead that the Río Frías fauna was more similar to the Colloncuran fauna of Argentina dated at 15.7 Ma by Flynn and Swisher (1995). An Ar/Ar age of 14.8 Ma (De la Cruz and Cortés, 2011) and the U-Pb age of 15.8 Ma obtained by Encinas et al., (2016) favors the notion that the Río Frías Formation is younger than the Santa Cruz Formation. ...
Article
Desertification of Central Patagonia began between ~14–12 Ma and therefore was not directly connected to the opening of the Drake Passage and initial conformation of the Antarctica ice cap in early Miocene times. Local processes, in particular the uplift of the Southern Andes, seem to have played a major role in climatic and biotic changes. We studied synorogenic strata filling a partly cannibalized foredeep between ~45° and 47°S at the latitudes of the Chile triple juction. Older synorogenic successions have yielded 18.7–16.4 Ma (U-Pb) in the western sector of the North Patagonian Cordillera corresponding to Meseta Guadal, Jeinemeni and Alto de Río Cisnes sections. This uplift was partly contemporaneous with broken foreland deformation associated with the San Bernardo fold belt to the east at 17.7–15 Ma. Younger synorogenic successions of 13.5 Ma (U-Pb), associated with a short pulse of major uplift that gave way to deposition of a thick conglomeratic succession, and subsequently finer-grained deposits of 12.3 Ma, are on the eastern Andean front in the Chalía and Guenguell sections, implying a retraction in orogenic activity, and out-of-sequence growth of the Patagonian Cordillera. Consequently, contractional deformation in this area ended after ~12 Ma, sealed by the extrusion of extensive alkali flood basalts, indicating that Neogene shortening only lasted ~6 My, ending around 6 My before the subduction of the Chile Ridge at the latitudes of Central Patagonia and 4.5 My before subduction at the southern tip of South America.
... This genus is also common during the Santacrucian, with several records in Argentina and Chile (Bostelmann et al., 2013;Croft et al., 2004;Fernández and Muñoz, 2019;Flynn et al., 2002b). However, it has also been mentioned in younger ages (e.g., "Friasian") in Argentina and Chile (Bostelmann et al., 2012;Marshall, 1990) and tentatively in the middle to late Miocene of Venezuela (Rincón et al., 2016). ...
... Compared with contemporaneous Chilean localities, Laguna del Laja (Tcm 3 ) and Chucal (~19 • S) faunas differ in that the latter has mesotheriids, absence of sloths, and a very different caviomorph composition (Charrier et al., 2015;Flynn et al., 2002a). Otherwise, the Laguna del Laja (Tcm 3 ) fauna is broadly similar to those of southern localities like Pampa Castillo (47 • S; Santacrucian), and Rio Cisnes (44.5 • S; "Friasian") (Bostelmann et al., 2012;Charrier et al., 2015;Flynn et al., 2002b;Marshall, 1990), but has a much lower taxonomic diversity. ...
Article
Despite recent efforts, the diversity of Neogene mammals in Chile remains poorly known, with several presumed new taxa awaiting description. For example, previous studies have suggested that the early to late Miocene mammalian assemblages from the Laguna del Laja fossiliferous locality (Cura-Mallín and Trapa-Trapa formations), in the Andean Cordillera of south-central Chile (∼37°), comprise dozens of undescribed taxa. Therefore, a better understanding of the Laguna del Laja faunal taxonomic affinities is needed, especially because the region holds one of the few known localities spanning from early to late Miocene in Chile. Dozens of mammal specimens recently recovered in late early Miocene beds of the Cura-Mallín Formation at Laguna del Laja are described and illustrated, and a discussion of their biogeographical and paleoenvironmental significance is provided. We recognize the presence of at least 17 taxa, including some potential new ones (e.g., Maruchito sp. nov.?) and others recognized in Chile for the first time (e.g., Galileomys). Geochronological (17.7–16.4 Ma) and biostratigraphical data indicate that this fauna correlates well with the Santacrucian SALMA, contributing to filling the gap in the taxonomic composition of Santacrucian mammalian assemblages in Chile and southwestern of South America. However, it is noteworthy that Laguna del Laja has documented some taxa previously found only in older (Colhuehuapian) and younger (Colloncuran) ages. Finally, the faunal assemblage supports a paleoenvironmental reconstruction of mixed forested and open habitats, likely with the predominance of the former, in the region during the late early Miocene and a widely distributed Santacrucian fauna throughout southern South America in both intra-arc and foreland basins.
... In Chile, Protypotherium remains appears to be common. It has been reported in Early Miocene localities of the Cura-Mallín Formation at Laguna del Laja , and the Santa Cruz Formation, in Pampa Castillo, and Pampa Guadal ; in early Middle Miocene of the Río Frías Formation in the upper Río Cisnes (Bostelmann et al., 2012;; and now in the late Middle Miocene of the Cura-Mallín Formation. Additional remains potentially referable to Protypotherium were collected at Río Oscuro, Aysén in Mayoan SALMA age strata . ...
... Considering the limited sampling of mammals so far recorded from the Lonquimay region, taxonomic comparison with relatively close geographic paleontological localities in both Chile and Argentina must be considered preliminary. Three taxa (Nesodon, Theosodon, and Protypotherium) are shared with the Early Miocene Pampa Castillo fauna (~47°S), and that of the early Middle Miocene Río Frías Formation (~45°S) in southern Chile (Bostelmann et al., 2012;Charrier et al., 2015;Encinas et al., 2016;Flynn et al., 2002b), and also with the Santa Cruz Formation (~51°S) in Argentina (Cassini et al., 2012). Two taxa (Nesodon and Theosodon) are shared with the early Miocene Chucal fauna, Chile (~19°S; Charrier et al., 2015;Croft et al., 2004). ...
Article
The Cura-Mallín Formation consists of a series of upper Oligocene to Upper Miocene volcanic and sedimentary rocks deposited in continental settings that crop out in the Andean Cordillera in Chile and Argentina between ∼37° and 39°S. Since the 1990s few fossil mammals have been recovered from this unit in the surroundings of Lonquimay, south-central Chile (38.5°S), and all of them were assigned to the Early Miocene. After a reassessment of the taxonomic affinities of the fauna so far recovered from the Cura-Mallín Formation in the Lonquimay area, and based on the radioisotopic ages of the fossil-bearing localities, here we recognized two chronological distinctive mammalian assemblages: one of Early Miocene age (probably Colhuehuapian–Santacrucian SALMA), which includes Nesodon imbricatus and Parastrapotherium sp.; and a second one of late Middle Miocene age (12.8–11.6 Ma; Serravallian; Mayoan SALMA), which includes glyptodonts (Glyptodontidae indeterminate), armadillos (Eutatini indeterminate), macraucheniids (Theosodon sp.), a new interatheriid species (Protypotherium concepcionensissp. nov.), and a likely platyrrhine monkey. Therefore, in contrast with previous interpretations, the fauna from Lonquimay is not uniquely restricted to the Early Miocene. The fossil mammals and plants recognized from the area indicate the persistence of mostly temperate and forested habitats with permanent bodies of water during the Early to latest Middle Miocene. This suggests that this part of the Andean Cordillera (38°‒39°S) did not reach enough paleoaltitudes (>1000 m) to cause an important orographic rain shadow effect in the foreland basins at least after the late Middle Miocene (c. 12 Ma). However, the role of Neogene South Hemisphere climatic changes in triggering, or reinforcing, the foreland desertification along the south-central Andes is an additional factor that cannot be discarded.
... Based on the taxa recovered from these formations and from the Villavieja and La Victoria formations in Colombia, four successive South American Land Mammal Ages (SALMAs) were established between the older Santacrucian (Burdigalian, early Miocene: Perkins et al. 2012) and the younger Chasicoan (Tortonian, late Miocene: Schultz et al. 2004), comprising the Friasian sensu stricto (including fossils only from the R ıo Fr ıas Formation, in opposition to the traditional concept of Friasian or Friasian sensu lato that includes fossils from the five formations mentioned above), Colloncuran, Laventan and Mayoan (Pascual & Odreman Rivas 1971;Marshall et al. 1983;Vucetich et al. 1993;Flynn & Swisher 1995;Madden et al. 1997;Croft 2007;Croft et al. 2009). However, the operative use of each SALMA, as well as their affinities, boundaries, name priority and position within the Miocene scheme, is currently under debate (Marshall & Salinas 1990;Vucetich et al. 1993;Bostelmann et al. 2012;Croft et al. 2016). ...
... Fossils of the Friasian sensu stricto come from a continental pyroclastic sequence belonging to the R ıo Fr ıas Formation at Alto R ıo Cisnes, Chile (Fig. 1). This unit is characterized mainly by tuffs, tuffites and palaeosols (Dal Mol ın 1998; Escosteguy et al. 2003;de la Cruz & Cort es 2011;Bostelmann et al. 2012 and references cited therein). Two 40 Ar/ 39 Ar dates of "about 16.5 Ma" (Flynn & Swisher 1995, p. 325) and 14.83 ± 0.17 Ma (de la Cruz & Cort es 2011) indicate a Burdigalian À Langhian age. ...
Article
The middle to late Miocene Friasian sensu stricto, Colloncuran and Mayoan South American Land Mammal Ages (SALMAs) were established based on the mammals recovered from the Río Frías, Collón Curá and Río Mayo formations, respectively (southern Argentina and Chile). Records of Interatheriinae (Notoungulata) from these sediments have been known since the first contributions of Ameghino and Roth, but most of this material has only been superficially revised or is almost unstudied. Based on these old collections and new interatheriine records from Cerro Zeballos (Chubut Province), we improve the diagnosis of Caenophilus tripartitus, describe new and peculiar characters for this taxon, consider Epipatriarchus bifidens as Protypotherium cf. colloncurensis, and propose Epipatriarchus as a junior synonym of Protypotherium. In turn, the holotype of Epipatriarchus innexus is here identified as the mesotheriid Trachytypotherium sp. Therefore, only two genera of Interatheriinae, Protypotherium and Caenophilus, are recognized in the Friasian sensu stricto and Mayoan. We identify Protypotherium cf. endiadys and a probable new species of Protypotherium for the Friasian sensu stricto, P. cf. colloncurensis and Caenophilus tripartitus for the Mayoan, and C. tripartitus, P. colloncurensis and P. cf. endiadys for Cerro Zeballos. An extended phylogenetic analysis is performed, including species from low latitudes and new data for P. colloncurensis and Caenophilus tripartitus, with the latter recovered as a sister taxon to Miocochilius federicoi. Both Protypotherium and Miocochilius are recovered as paraphyletic. The updated information we present provides a better knowledge of Interatheriinae for the middle to late Miocene of southern South America.
... The Friasian/Colloncuran SALMA, mostly recorded in the Chilean and Argentine Patagonia, include marsupials (insectivores/omnivores to carnivores) and several types of placental mammals including caviomorph rodents, xenarthrans, astrapotheres, litopterns and notoungulates (Vucetich, 1977;Bondesio et al., 1980;Marshall, 1990;Scillato-Yané and Carlini, 1998;González-Ruiz et al., 2011;Bostelmann et al., 2012;Vera et al., 2019). Pascual and Ortíz J. (1990) considered that this assemblage records a turnover of mammal faunas, with the extinction and reduction in abundance of several taxa. ...
Article
A new assemblage of large insect trace fossils is recognized in paleosols of the middle Miocene pyroclastic deposits from extra-Andean north Patagonia. This assemblage includes Racemusichnus jacobacciensis igen. isp. nov., the largest trace fossil in paleosols attributed to solitary insects. R. jacobacciensis is represented by clusters of two to seven thickly walled cylinders horizontally orientated in the paleosol. The cluster arrangement, its orientation, the large size and wall of the cylinders suggest a dung beetle, probably a representative of the Geotrupidae as the possible trace maker. The new ichnoassemblage, also comprising large-sized specimens of Coprinisphaera ispp., Teisseirei barattinia and Feoichnus challa, belongs to the Rosellichnus assemblage-SAPIA of the Coprinisphaera Ichnofacies. Mollic paleosols along with the trace fossils, mammal remains and previous data for this unit suggest an open grassy habitat compatible with high productive grass savannas, under a temperate-warm and seasonal subhumid climate. This assemblage of large-sized trace fossils is attributed to highly productive ecosystems related to the rise of temperature occurred during the Middle Miocene Climatic Optimum.
... However, in contrast with neighboring geographical areas such as Argentina, work focused on Chilean caviomorph paleodiversity is still scarce. Recent findings indicate the presence of several distinctive early Miocene rodent assemblages in Chile (Bostelmann et al., 2013(Bostelmann et al., , 2012Charrier et al., 2015;Croft et al., 2008;Flynn et al., 2002bFlynn et al., , 2002a, but some of them are poorly studied. This is the case of the rodent assemblages of the Cura-Mallín Formation in south-central Chile. ...
... Prozaedyus records mainly come from Argentina, particularly from Patagonian (Santa Cruz, Chubut, Neuquén, and Río Negro provinces) and Cuyo (San Juan Province) regions, displaying a temporal distribution that ranges from late Oligocene to early middle Miocene (Deseadan to Laventan SALMAs) (Kramarz et al., 2005(Kramarz et al., , 2010López et al., 2011;Vizcaíno et al., 2012). Additionally, some records of this genus were also mentioned from the early middle Miocene (Colhuehuapian-Friasian) of Chile (Kraglievich, 1930;Flynn et al., 2002; Bostelmann et al., 2012;González-Ruiz, 2019), and the early-middle Miocene (?Colloncuran SALMAs) and late middle Miocene (Laventan SALMA) of Bolivia (Hoffstetter et al., 1972;Hoffstetter, 1977; but also see Croft et al., 2009Croft et al., , 2016. ...
... Ma, so all the calculated ages are a bit older, roughly 15.9 Ma for the Pilcaniyeu ignimbrite. Proteropithecia Kay et al., 1999 also occurs in the penecontemporaneous Río Frías Formation in the area of Río Cisnes, Chile (Bostelmann et al., 2012;R. Kay personal observations). ...
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Four specimens of primates were collected from the Santa Cruz Formation (Early–Middle Miocene) during expeditions undertaken by the Museo de la Plata, Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales “Bernardino Rivadavia”, and Duke University in 2013, 2014, and 2017. A new species of Homunculus Ameghino, H. vizcainoi (Platyrrhini, Homunculidae), was identified at Barrancas Blancas, and Segundas Barrancas Blancas localities on the right bank of the Río Santa Cruz (Santa Cruz Province, Argentina). The Barrancas Blancas specimen comes from a tuff dated at 17.04 Ma; those from Segundas Barrancas Blancas are older than a tuff dated at 16.32 Ma and younger than a tuff dated at 17.36 Ma. A Río Bote specimen is confidently identified as Homunculus, but of uncertain species. All these fossil primates are temporally equivalent to those from the coastal Santa Cruz Formation, and younger than those from the Pinturas Formation to the north. By contrast, the lower and middle strata of the Pinturas Formation contain a different but closely related taxon, Carlocebus Fleagle. All known records of Carlocebus from the Pinturas Formation in north central Santa Cruz Province are older than the known occurrences of Homunculus in the Santa Cruz Formation in the Río Santa Cruz valley, Río Bote and elsewhere.
... During the middle Miocene of Patagonia (southernmost of South America) several main successive mammal faunas have been traditionally identified (Friasian, Colloncuran, Mayoan; see Flynn and Swisher 1995). The Friasian faunas are recorded from the Río Frías Formation, Chile (Marshall and Salinas 1990;Bostelmann et al. 2012), the Colloncuran fauna from the Collón Curá Formation, Argentina (Bondesio et al. 1980;Vucetich et al. 1993), and the Mayoan fauna from the El Portezuelo, Pedregoso, and Río Mayo formations, Argentina (Scillato-Yané and Carlini 1998;De Iuliis et al. 2008;. The operational use of these Miocene faunas as ages, South American Land Mammal Ages (SALMAS) or local faunas and the relationships between them is still unclear, and has been debated by several authors (see Marshall and Salinas 1990;Vucetich et al. 1993;Flynn and Swisher 1995;Madden et al. 1997;Croft et al. 2009Croft et al. , 2016. ...
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In this contribution we describe a partial dentary with teeth and an astragalus referred to the ancient megatheriine Megathericulus patagonicus Ameghino, 1904 (Xenarthra, Tardigrada) recovered from the Collón Curá Formation (Miocene) at Chubut Province, Argentina. Referral of the new specimens is based on metric and morphological similarities with the holotype and specimens that have been referred to this species. Shared features include: 1) overall size, smaller than other Megatheriinae such Eomegatherium Kraglievich, 1926, Pliomegatherium Kraglievich, 1930, and Pyramiodontherium (Rovereto, 1914); 2) shape of the molariforms, molariforms mesiodistally compressed and rectangular in outline; 3) Hypsodonty Index close to 100; 4) position of the navicular facet, two-thirds of the navicular facet projects dorsal to the discoid facet; 5); shape of the ventral portion of the fibular facet, the ventral portion has subtriangular outline and contacts the ectal facet; 6) in the astragalus, presence of a sesamoid facet. Considering the large intraspecific differences exhibited in Megatheriinae, the similarities and few differences between Megathericulus primaevus Cabrera, 1939, and M. patagonicus allow us to consider M. primaevus as a junior synonym of M. patagonicus. The presence of Megathericulus and 'Xyophorus' Ameghino, 1887 (Mammalia, Xenarthra, Nothrotheriinae) in some distant paleofauna associations (Cerro Zeballos, Argentina, and Quebrada Honda, Bolivia) would suggest a similar path of dispersion and paleoenvironment requirements of both taxa. The presence of these two genera in mentioned localities supports that the Quebrada Honda fauna as a whole is more similar to the asynchronous high-latitude faunas from Patagonia than to contemporary La Venta Fauna (Colombia).
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