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Large extinct canids from the Pleistocene of Uruguay: systematic, biogeographic and paleoecological remarks

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The fossil record of Canidae in South America begins in the Late Pliocene. During the Pleistocene large hypercarnivore canids (Theriodictis, Protocyon, Canis dirus) and also large species of Neotropical foxes (Dusicyon avus) evolved. Most fossil canids were found in Chile, Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil, Venezuela and Argentina and are scarce or absent in other countries. From Uruguay only fossils referred to Dusicyon gymnocercus, 'Pseudalopex' and 'Canis' are currently known. We describe new records that belong to large canids from the Sopas Fm. (Late Pleistocene) of Uruguay and discuss their biogeographic and paleoecologic relevance. These specimens are referred to Protocyon troglodytes and D. avus by means of descriptive and multivariate analysis and constitute the first records of these taxa for Uruguay, expanding and completing their distribution in the Late Pleistocene of South America. Both species could have been occupied 'niches' not represented by the carnivores previously registered in the Sopas Fm. (Puma concolor, Panthera onca, Lontra longicaudis, etc.) suggesting more complex biotic interactions in the mammalian assemblages than previously assumed. The large hypercarnivorous canid P. troglodytes could hunt medium-large sized mammals, pursuing their prey in packs over long distances, while the medium canid D. avus could prey on small and middle mammals.
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Keywords: Late Pleistocene; South America; large canids

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Division Mastozoologia, Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales “Bernardino Rivadavia” - CONICET, Buenos Aires, Argentina 2: Facultad de Ciencias, Montevideo, Uruguay

Publication date: March 1, 2009

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