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Revista de la Asociación Geológica Argentina

versión impresa ISSN 0004-4822versión On-line ISSN 1851-8249


VIZCAINO, Sergio F.; FARINA, Richard A.  y  FERNICOLA, Juan Carlos. Young Darwin and the ecology and extinctionof pleistocene south american fossil mammals. Rev. Asoc. Geol. Argent. [online]. 2009, vol.64, n.1, pp.160-169. ISSN 0004-4822.

Duringhis two years in South America Charles Darwin became fascinated not only withthe lush vegetation of Brazil, but also with the gigantic Pleistocene mammals that hefound in the drier areas of Uruguay, and in the pampas and Patagonian coast of Argentina. These findings includedvarious ground sloths and glyptodonts among xenarthrans, and hoofed herbivoreslike Toxodon and Macrauchenia, in addition to horses and smallrodents. He concluded that the general assumption that large animals requireluxuriant vegetation was false and that vitiated the reasoning of geologists onsome aspects of Earth's history. He also reflected on the evident changes thatoccurred in the continent, the extinct fauna of which suggested to him ananalogy to southern parts of Africa. He wondered about our ignorance of biological traits inextinct creatures and the reasons for their extinction. Thus, not only did Darwin inspire phylogeneticstudies on fossil mammal lineages, he also opened a gate to the research ontheir behaviour, physiology and extinction; i.e., their palaeobiology. Whereasthe first approach was largely developed in South America beginning about thesecond half of the 19th century due to the intellectual influence ofFlorentino Ameghino, palaeobiology became a much more recent line of work, inapparent relation to innovations in methodology and technology. Thiscontribution provides an overview of recent contributions on the palaeobiologyof Pleistocene fossil mammals of South America as attempts to provide answers for Darwin's questions.

Palabras clave : Darwin; Ecology; Extinction; South America; Mammals.

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