Multiproxy evidence for leaf-browsing and closed habitats in extinct proboscideans (Mammalia, Proboscidea) from central Chile

Erwin González-Guarda, Alia Petermann-Pichincura, Carlos Tornero, Laura Domingo, Jordi Agustí, Mario Pino, Ana M. Abarzúa, José M. Capriles, Natalia A. Villavicencio, Rafael Labarca, Violeta Tolorza, Paloma Sevilla, Florent Rivals

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Abstract

Proboscideans are so-called ecosystem engineers and are considered key players in hypotheses about Late Pleistocene megafaunal extinctions. However, knowledge about the autoecology and chronology of the proboscideans in South America is still open to debate and raises controversial views. Here, we used a range of multiproxy approaches and new radiocarbon datings to study the autoecology of Chilean gomphotheres, the only group of proboscideans to reach South America during the Great American Biotic Interchange (∼3.1 to 2.7 million years before present). As part of this study, we analyzed stable isotopes, dental microwear, and dental calculus microfossils on gomphothere molars from 30 Late Pleistocene sites (31° to 42°S). These proxies provided different scales of temporal resolution, which were then combined to assess the dietary and habitat patterns of these proboscideans. The multiproxy study suggests that most foraging took place in relatively closed environments. In Central Chile, there is a positive correlation between lower δ13C values and an increasing consumption of arboreal/scrub elements. Analyses of dental microwear and calculus microfossils have verified these leaf-browsing feeding habits. From a comparative perspective, the dietary pattern of South American gomphotheres appears to be constrained more by resource availability than by the potential dietary range of the individual taxa. This multiproxy study is aimed at increasing knowledge of the life history of gomphotheres and thus follows an issue considered one of the greatest challenges for paleontology in South America, recently pointed out by the need to thoroughly understand the role of ecological engineers before making predictions about the consequences of ecosystem defaunation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9258-9263
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume115
Issue number37
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 11 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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    González-Guarda, E., Petermann-Pichincura, A., Tornero, C., Domingo, L., Agustí, J., Pino, M., Abarzúa, A. M., Capriles, J. M., Villavicencio, N. A., Labarca, R., Tolorza, V., Sevilla, P., & Rivals, F. (2018). Multiproxy evidence for leaf-browsing and closed habitats in extinct proboscideans (Mammalia, Proboscidea) from central Chile. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 115(37), 9258-9263. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1804642115