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Santa Cruz Province, Argentina, has some of the richest fossil mammal localities
in the world. However, the absolute and relative ages of its fossil localities
have long been a source of confusion and debate. In particular, there has been
longstanding disagreement about the relative ages of the fossils from the
western part of the province in deposits of the Pinturas Formation compared with
those from the numerous localities of the Santa Cruz Formation along the
Atlantic coast. Drawing on recent studies of the tuffaceous sediments in many
classic fossil localities, and studies of fossil representatives of marsupials,
rodents, and primates, we provide a synthesis of the temporal relationship among
fossil localities throughout the province. There is broad agreement between the
results of the tephrochronology and mammalian paleontology. Both tephra
correlations and paleontological comparisons indicate that the lower units of
the Pinturas Formation are older than the sections of the Santa Cruz Formation
preserved at Monte León and Cerro Observatorio, supporting Ameghino's
suggestion that part of the Pinturas Formation represents a distinct faunal
zone. However, the upper unit of the Pinturas Formation seems to correspond in
age with the lower part of the sections at Monte León and Cerro
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