Caviomorph rodents became important components of South American faunas after their Eocene arrival from Africa. Here we describe the cavioid, chinchilloid, and erethizontoid caviomorphs of the early Miocene Pampa Castillo fauna of southern Chile. This fauna's age and location make it key for resolving outstanding biostratigraphic questions concerning early Miocene Patagonian fossiliferous strata.
Each of the four major caviomorph clades (“superfamilies”) is represented in the Pampa Castillo fauna, three whose members are detailed here: cavioids (3 genera; 3 species), chinchilloids (3 genera; 6 species), and erethizontoids (2 genera; 2 species).
Abundantly represented taxa, e.g., Neoreomys australis, Perimys erutus, and Prolagostomus pusillus, corroborate previous work assigning the Pampa Castillo fauna to the Santacrucian South American Land Mammal “Age” (SALMA; inclusive of the “Pinturan”). Several taxa, including Eosteiromys, Perimys intermedius, and Perimys sp. nov.?, are also found in the lower and middle Pinturas Formation (lmPF) but not “core” Santacrucian faunas (from the Santa Cruz Formation [SCF] along the Río Santa Cruz and Atlantic coast), suggesting a distinctive resemblance between lmPF and Pampa Castillo rodents. Some authors consider the fauna from the lmPF to form the basis of a “Pinturan” SALMA or subage, considered to slightly predate core Santacrucian faunas, but which has yet to be formally recognized. The taxonomic composition of rodent fauna from Pampa Castillo, as well as relative abundance data, indicated a paleoenvironment intermediate between the closed forests of the lmPF and the mosaic of open and closed habitats of the core Santacrucian faunas from the SCF.