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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Sep 11;115(37):9258-9263. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1804642115. Epub 2018 Aug 27.

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

Author information

1
Biomolecular Laboratory, Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolucio Social, 43007 Tarragona, Spain; erwingonzalezguarda@gmail.com.
2
Departamento de Geodinámica, Estratigrafía y Paleontología, Facultad de Ciencias Geológicas, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, 28040 Madrid, Spain.
3
Área de Arqueología, Gestión Ambiental S.A., 7550000 Santiago, Chile.
4
Biomolecular Laboratory, Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolucio Social, 43007 Tarragona, Spain.
5
Instituto de Ciencias de la Tierra, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad Austral de Chile, 5090000 Valdivia, Chile.
6
Area de Prehistoria, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, 43002 Tarragona, Spain.
7
Earth and Planetary Sciences Department, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA 95064.
8
Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats, 08010 Barcelona, Spain.
9
Department of Anthropology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802.
10
Departamento de Ecología, Facultad de Ciencias Biológicas, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, 8320000 Santiago, Chile.

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.

KEYWORDS:

dental calculus; dental microwear; stable isotopes

PMID:
30150377
DOI:
10.1073/pnas.1804642115
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Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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