Fossil land mammals were collected by G. G. Simpson in 1933–1934 at and near the Tapera de López in central Chubut Province, Patagonia, southern Argentina, from rocks now mapped as the Sarmiento Formation. These fossils are assigned to land mammal faunas of Casamayoran (Early Eocene), Mustersan (Middle Eocene), and Deseadan (late Early Oligocene through Early Miocene) age.
40K-40Ar age determinations of eight basalt and two tuff units associated with the Deseadan age local fauna at Scarritt Pocket establish a geochronologic framework that calibrates the biostratigraphic record at this locality. The radioisotope dates obtained at Scarritt Pocket range from 23.4 Ma to about 21.0 Ma, and equate with earliest Miocene time. The Scarritt Pocket local fauna is the youngest dated Deseadan age fauna yet known in South America.
Seven other localities have, or were reputed to have, local faunas of Deseadan age associated with dated volcanic units. Six of these localities are in Argentina (Gran Barranca, Cerro Blanco, Valle Hermoso, Pico Truncado, Cañadón Hondo, Quebrada Fiera de Malargüe) and one in Bolivia (Estratos Salla in the Salla-Luribay Basin). The stratigraphic relationships of the volcanic units with these local faunas is discussed, and the taxonomic content of each is reassessed.
The Deseadan Land Mammal Age is defined by the earliest record of the land mammal genus Pyrotherium, which is from below a basalt dated at 33.6 Ma at Pico Truncado. Other early records of Pyrotherium occur below basalts dated at about 29 Ma at the Gran Barranca and Valle Hermoso, and from a 28.5 Ma level of the Estratos Salla. Thus, the lower boundary for Deseadan time is about 34 Ma.
The youngest record of Pyrotherium is in the upper levels of the Estratos Salla dated at about 24 Ma. However, the Scarritt Pocket local fauna, which lacks Pyrotherium, permits placement of the upper boundary for Deseadan time at about 21.0 Ma. Late Deseadan time is surely, and the end of Deseadan time is apparently, marked by the last record of such groups as Proborhyaeninae (Proborhyaena), Rhynchippinae (Rhynchippus), Archaeohyracidae (Archaeohyrax), and the genera Platypittamys (Octodontidae), Scarrittia (Leontiniidae), Propachyrucos and Prohegetotherium (Hegetotheriidae), and Argyrohyrax (Interatheriidae), as these taxa are recorded in the Scarritt Pocket local fauna. Thus, Deseadan time extends from about 34.0 Ma to about 21.0 Ma, making it the Land Mammal Age with the longest known duration in South America.