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A paleobiological study of Santacrucian native ungulates is presented in this
chapter. Seven families are recorded: Hegetotheriidae, Interatheriidae,
Toxodontidae, and Homalodotheriidae (Notoungulata); Proterotheriidae and
Macraucheniidae (Litopterna); and Astrapotheriidae (Astrapotheria); however, a
detailed systematic revision is still pending. A broad body size range is
recorded. Typotheres (Hegetotheriidae + Interatheriidae) vary from 2 to
10 kg, proterotheriids vary from 20 to 100 kg, toxodonts and macraucheniids
surpass 100 kg, and astrapotheres reach 1000 kg. The highest taxonomic richness
corresponds to the range between 20 and 100 kg. Locomotor behavior is
interpreted as mostly cursorial. Typotheres might have engaged in occasional
digging, but this group also includes the most agile and fastest forms, more so
than proterotheriids. Only two taxa in the sample (Interatherium and Astrapotherium) show evidence of swimming capabilities and
potential aquatic habits. In contrast, feeding behavior presents less variation,
which agrees with previous interpretations: notoungulates inhabited open
habitats and fed mainly on grass, while litopterns and astrapotheres inhabited
closed habitats and were mainly browsers. We infer that notoungulates had
exceptional chemical digestion capabilities whereas litopterns may have relied
on long periods of chewing to process their food.