World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article


Article Id: WHEBN0002552745
Reproduction Date:

Title: Sparassodonta  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Great American Interchange, Borhyaenidae, Metatheria, Saber-toothed cat, Arctotherium
Collection: Prehistoric Mammals of South America, Prehistoric Metatherians, Sparassodonts
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Temporal range: Paleocene-Pliocene
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Infraclass: Metatheria
Order: Sparassodonta
Ameghino, 1894


Sparassodonta[1] is an extinct order of carnivorous metatherian mammals native to South America. They were once considered to be true marsupials, but are now thought to be a sister taxon to them.[2][3] A number of these mammalian predators closely resemble placental predators that evolved separately on other continents, and are cited frequently as examples of convergent evolution. They were first described by Florentino Ameghino, from fossils found in the Santa Cruz beds of Patagonia. Sparassodonts were present throughout South America's long period of "splendid isolation" during the Cenozoic; during this time they shared the niches for large warm-blooded predators with the flightless terror birds. Previously, it was thought that these mammals died out in the face of competition from "more competitive" placental carnivorans during the Pliocene Great American Interchange, but more recent research has showed that sparassodonts died out long before eutherian carnivores arrived in South America (aside from procyonids).[4][5]


  • Features 1
  • Evolutionary history 2
  • Classification 3
  • Taxonomy 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6
  • External links 7


Although members of the order Sparassodonta showed many similarities with placental carnivores, they were not closely related and are a very good example of convergent evolution. For example, sparassodonts' molars were very similar to the sharp teeth of placental carnivores. The canines were also lengthened, and in some cases resemble those of saber-toothed cats. Sparassodonts spanned a wide range of body sizes, from 2.2 pound (1 kg) weasel or civet-like forms to Thylacosmilus, which was the size of a leopard.[5][6] Along with the Australian thylacoleonids, sparassodonts include some of the largest metatherian carnivores.[5]

Sparassodonta is characterized by dental synapomorphies that distinguish the group from other closely related mammals. Unequivocal traits uniting the earliest Sparassodonts include:[7]

  • a ridge on the upper molar (preparacrista) oriented anterobuccally (towards the cheek) with respect to the long axis of the tooth.
  • ridges on lower molars (postprotocristid-metacristid) parallel or oblique with respect to lower jaw axis.
  • talonid (crushing end) of lower molar narrow in relation to trigonid (shearing end).

The dental formula of most sparassodonts is, with the exception of borhyaenids, which have lost an upper incisor, proborhyaenids (except for Callistoe), which have lost a lower incisor, and thylacosmilids, which have lost one premolar, two lower incisors, and at least two upper incisors.[7][8] Some specimens of Borhyaena and Arctodictis are also missing the last upper molar, showing that the presence of this tooth was variable in these species.[9] Sparassodonts had a typical metatherian mode of dental replacement, replacing only the upper and lower third premolar throughout their lifetime.[10] In thylacosmilids, this tooth was never replaced.[11]

Evolutionary history

The early history of the Sparassodonta is poorly known, as most Paleocene and Eocene members of this group are only known from isolated teeth and fragmentary jaws. However, one species, the middle Eocene Callistoe vincei, is known from a nearly complete, articulated skeleton.[12] As Callistoe belongs to one of the most specialized groups of sparassodonts, this indicates that the other major groups (e.g. borhyaenids, hathliacynids, etc.) must have also arisen by this time. Originally, the early Paleocene metatherian Mayulestes was considered to be the earliest known member of the Sparassodonta, but phylogenetic analyses suggest that this species represents an independent radiation of carnivorous metatherians more closely related to Pucadelphys.[7] As of this writing, the earliest known true sparassodonts are either Allqokirus australis, a species from the same site as Mayulestes which may also turn out to not be a sparassodont, and an isolated astragalus from the earliest Paleocene site of Punta Peligro, Argentina.[13] Marshall and colleagues in 1990[14] considered the Cretaceous stagodontids to also be a member of the Sparassodonta, but this was criticized by later authors.

The skeleton of Lycopsis longirostrus, from the Miocene.

Sparassodonts can be divided into six major groups; basal sparassodonts (?earliest Paleocene-late Miocene), species that cannot be easily assigned to any of the other sparassodont groups and whose teeth often exhibit adaptations for omnivory; hathliacynids (late Oligocene-early Pliocene/late Pliocene), which range from a marten to a thylacine in size, and have long, fox-like snouts and teeth strongly adapted for carnivory; basal borhyaenoids (middle Eocene-late Miocene), borhyaenoids that cannot be easily classified into the families Borhyaenidae, Thylacosmilidae, or Proborhyaenidae and vary in size and shape; borhyaenids (early-late Miocene), the sparassodont group most specialized for running, but not as much as living carnivorans or even thylacines; proborhyaenids (middle Eocene-late Oligocene), robust, wolverine-like forms with ever-growing upper and lower canines; and thylacosmilids (early Miocene-late Pliocene), another terrestrially specialized group with ever-growing saber-like upper canines.[7] With the exception of some basal sparassodonts, all members of this group were hypercarnivorous.[5] Based on studies of the postcranial skeleton, it appears as though most sparassodonts were scansorial (adapted for climbing), although terrestrial adaptations evolved in "Lycopsis" longirostrus, borhyaenids, proborhyaenids, and thylacosmilids.[15][16][17]

After the middle Miocene, sparassodonts began to slowly decline in diversity. Basal borhyaenoids are last known from the early late Miocene (Pseudolycopsis cabrerai and "Lycopsis" viverensis), and after this time were at least partially replaced by large-bodied basal sparassodonts such as Stylocynus. It has been suggested that this shift in dominance was due to the more omnivorous habits of basal sparassodonts, which may have been better able to exploit the more seasonal climates of South America during the late Neogene.[18] Borhyaenids are last known from the latest Miocene, though only fragmentary remains of this group are known from this period.[4] Later remains assigned to this group have since been reidentified as thylacosmilids or procyonids. By the Pliocene, only two families of sparassodonts remained in South America, the Hathliacynidae and the Thylacosmilidae. Pliocene hathliacynid remains are rare, and it is possible that these animals may have competed with the large carnivorous didelphids such as Lutreolina that appeared around this time.[19] Hathliacynids are last definitively known from the early Pliocene, though it has been suggested that the genus Borhyaenidium may have survived into the late Pliocene.[5] The thylacosmilids, on the other hand, were more successful and abundant, being some of the only large mammalian carnivores in South America during the Pliocene, and only died out at the end of the epoch. It is still not certain why the Sparassodonta declined in diversity and became extinct during the late Cenozoic, but it appears as though competition from eutherian carnivorans was not a factor, as the placental analogues of sparassodonts (dogs, weasels, and saber-toothed cats) did not enter South America until the middle Pleistocene, several million years after their sparassodont counterparts became extinct.[7][4][20] The overall decline in sparassodont diversity from the late Miocene to the end of the Pliocene may be linked to the cooling climates following the middle Miocene climatic optimum and the onset of the Pleistocene ice ages.[21]


Cladogram after Forasiepi et al. in press.[22] Please note that not all studies agree on the sister group relationship between Thylacosmilidae and Borhyaenidae recovered here, with other studies finding thylacosmilids to be more closely related to proborhyaenids.[12] The relationships among hathliacynids are also relatively unstable.















"Lycopsis" longirostrus
















The taxonomic classification below follows the latest review of the group, that of Forasiepi, 2009, with additions from more recent studies.[7] Although Mayulestes was originally described as a sparassodont, later phylogenetic analyses have shown that it most likely does not belong to this group.[7][23] Similarly, while basal borhyaenoids such as Lycopsis and Prothylacynus were once thought to belong to a distinct family (Prothylacynidae), phylogenetic analyses have found that these animals do not represent a monophyletic group.[7][12][24][25] The exact age of most Eocene species of sparassodonts is uncertain, given the lack of precise stratigraphic information associated with most specimens and the recent division of the Casamayoran SALMA into the Vacan and Barrancan SALMAs.

  • Order Sparassodonta


  1. ^ From Greek σπαράσσειν (sparassein), to tear, rend; and ὀδούς, gen. ὀδόντος (odous, odontos), tooth.
  2. ^ Naish, Darren (29 June 2008). "Invasion of the marsupial weasels, dogs, cats and bears... or is it?". Tetrapod Zoology. Retrieved 2008-12-07. 
  3. ^ Guillermo W. Rougier, John R. Wible and Michael J. Novacek. First Implications of Deltatheridium specimens for early marsupial history, Nature 396, 459-463(3 December 1998)
  4. ^ a b c Foraseipi, Analía M.; Agustín G. Martinelli; Francisco J. Goín (2007). Ameghino y sus implicancias en el conocimiento de los grandes mamíferos carnívoros del Mio-Plioceno de América de Sur"Parahyaenodon argentinus"Revisión taxonómica de .  
  5. ^ a b c d e Prevosti, Francisco J.; Analía Forasiepi; Natalia Zimicz (2013). "The Evolution of the Cenozoic Terrestrial Mammalian Predator Guild in South America: Competition or Replacement?".  
  6. ^ Ercoli, Marcos D.; Francisco J. Prevosti (2011). "Estimación de masa de las especies de Sparassodonta (Mammalia, Metatheria) de edad Santacrucense (Mioceno Temprano) a partir del tamaño del centroide de los elementos apendiculares: inferencias paleoecológicas".  
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Forasiepi, Analía M. (2009). (Mammalia, Metatheria, Sparassodonta) and phylogeny of Cenozoic metatherian carnivores from South America"Arctodictis sinclairi"Osteology of .  
  8. ^ a b Shockey, Bruce J.; Anaya, Federico (2008). "Postcranial Osteology of Mammals from Salla, Bolivia (Late Oligocene): Form, Function, and Phylogenetic Implications". In Eric J. Sargis, Dagosto, Marian. Mammalian Evolutionary Morphology: a Tribute to Frederick S. Szalay. Springer. pp. 135–157.  
  9. ^ Marshall, Larry G. (1978). "Evolution of the Borhyaenidae, extinct South American predaceous marsupials".  
  10. ^ Marshall, Larry G. (1976). "Notes on the deciduous dentition of the Borhyaenidae (Marsupialia: Borhyaenoidea)".  
  11. ^ Forasiepi, Analia M.; Marcelo R. Sanchez-Villagra (2014). "Heterochrony, dental ontogenetic diversity, and the circumvention of constraints in marsupial mammals and extinct relatives".  
  12. ^ a b c Babot, María J.; Jaime E. Powell; Christian de Muizon (2002). a new Proborhyaenidae (Borhyaenoidea, Metatheria, Mammalia) from the Early Eocene of Argentina"Callistoe vincei".  
  13. ^ Forasiepi, Analía M.; Guillermo. W. Rougier (2009). "Additional data on early Paleocene metatherians (Mammalia) from Punta Peligro (Salamanca Formation, Argentina): comments based on petrosal morphology".  
  14. ^ Marshall, Larry G.; J.A. Case; M.O. Woodburne (1990). "Phylogenetic Relationships of the Families of Marsupials".  
  15. ^ Argot, Christine (2004). "Functional-adaptive analysis of the postcranial skeleton of a Laventan borhyaenoid, Lycopsis longirostris (Marsupialia, Metatheria)".  
  16. ^ Ercoli, Marcos D.; Francisco J. Prevosti; Alicia Álvarez (2012). "Form and function within a phylogenetic framework: locomotory habits of extant predators and some Miocene Sparassodonta".  
  17. ^ Argot, Christine; Judith Babot (2011). "Postcranial morphology, functional adaptations and paleobiology of Callistoe vincei, a predaceous metatherian from the Eocene of Salta, north-western Argentina".  
  18. ^ Babot, M. Judith; Pablo E. Ortiz (2008). "Primer registro de Borhyaenoidea (Mammalia, Metatheria, Sparassodonta) en la provincia de Tucumán (Formacion India Muerta, Grupo Choromoro; Mioceno tardío)".  
  19. ^ Goin, Francisco J.; Ulyses F. J. Pardiñas (1996). "Revision de las especies del genero Hyperdidelphys Ameghino, 1904 (Mammalia, Marsupialia, Didelphidae. Su significacion filogenetica, estratigrafica y adaptativa en el Neogeno del Cono Sur sudamericano".  
  20. ^ Prevosti, Francisco J.; Ulyses F. J. Pardinas (2009). "Comment on "The oldest South American Cricetidae (Rodentia) and Mustelidae (Carnivora): Late Miocene faunal turnover in central Argentina and the Great American Biotic Interchange" by D.H. Verzi and C.I. Montalvo [Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 267 (2008) 284–291]".  
  21. ^ Zimicz, Natalia (2014). "Avoiding Competition: the Ecological History of Late Cenozoic Metatherian Carnivores in South America".  
  22. ^ a b Analía M. Forasiepi, M. Judith Babot and Natalia Zimicz (2014). "Australohyaena antiqua (Mammalia, Metatheria, Sparassodonta), a large predator from the Late Oligocene of Patagonia". Journal of Systematic Palaeontology. in press.  
  23. ^ de Muizon, Christian (1998). "Mayulestes ferox, a borhyaenoid (Metatheria, Mammalia) from the early Paleocene of Bolivia. Phylogenetic and palaeobiologic implications".  
  24. ^ Forasiepi, Analía M.; Marcelo R. Sánchez-Villagra, Marcelo R.; Francisco J. Goin, Francisco J.; Masanaru Takai, Masanaru; Nobuo Shigehara, Nobuo; Richard F. Kay, Richard F. (2006). "A new species of Hathliacynidae (Metatheria, Sparassodonta) from the middle Miocene of Quebrada Honda, Bolivia".  
  25. ^ de Muizon, Christian (1999). "Marsupial skulls from the Deseadan (late Oligocene) of Bolivia and phylogenetic analysis of the Borhyaenoidea".  
  26. ^ Forasiepi, Analía M.; Alfredo A. Carlini (2010). "A new thylacosmilid (Mammalia, Metatheria, Sparassodonta) from the Miocene of Patagonia, Argentina" (PDF).  

Further reading

  • Goin, Francisco J (2003). "Early Marsupial radiations in South America". In Menna Jones, Mike Archer, Chris Dickman. Predators with Pouches: The Biology of Carnivorous Marsupials. CSIRO Publishing. pp. 30–42. 

External links

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.