Chapter

Punctuated Isolation

Edited by Darin A. Croft

in Bones, Clones, and Biomes

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print June 2012 | ISBN: 9780226649191
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226649214 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226649214.003.0002
Punctuated Isolation

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South America's fossil record of mammals from the Cenozoic Era (the past 65 million years or so) is far from perfect. No fossils have yet been discovered from some intervals of this time span, whereas only one or a few poorly sampled localities represent others. South America's mammalian record pales in comparison to that of northern continents. South America probably has the best fossil record of mammals among southern hemisphere continents. The broad picture of mammal evolution on the continent has been known for more than half a century. The mammals of this continent evolved largely within the context of isolation, punctuated by rare episodes of waif dispersal and faunal interchange. This contrasts starkly with the history of mammal evolution on northern continents, in which episodes of faunal interchange were commonplace. Although the general context of evolving mammal communities in South America has been known for many years, remarkable advances have taken place in recent decades in virtually every aspect of mammalian paleontology. Scores of researchers have made these advances from South America and elsewhere using a variety of methods ranging from traditional to cutting edge.

Keywords: mammals; fossils; evolution; paleontology; South America

Chapter.  4566 words. 

Subjects: Biological Sciences

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