STL Science Center

STL Science Center

13 May 2016

Hunting, not Trunkless

The original intended image today was going to show Macrauchenia without a trunk. However, I did not hear from the illustrator and we do not put up paid artist's creations from their websites without permission, unlike much of the internet. Instead, we see the interaction of Macrauchenia as prey and a late common predator of South America, Smilodon fatalis. Smilodon emigrated across the isthmus of Panama late in the lifeline of litopternans and very late in the line of Macrauchenia itself. Prior to the introduction of Smilodon the major predators of Macrauchenia were the morphologically similar but unrelated Thhylacosmilus and giant birds like Andalgalornis. This foreign incursion of predators (bears and other cats in addition to S. fatalis), along with many other ecological factors, played their parts in the extinction of this great and singular ungulate of South America. South America, at the time, was much as Australia is now in terms of the isolation of the faunal assemblage. As with Australian isolation, the sudden introduction of exotic taxa to South America ended not only the lineages of herbivores like Macrauchenia but also carnivores like Thylacosmilus.

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