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South America had an endemic mammalian fauna for much of the Cenozoic, largely
evolved during its long isolation. The predator guild was mainly occupied by
metatherians (Sparassodonta), as well as large terrestrial birds
(Phorusrhacidae), agile terrestrial crocodiles (Sebecidae), and giant snakes
(Madtsoiidae). Sparassodonta was a diverse clade, recorded from the Paleocene to
the Middle Pliocene, with its acme in the late Early Miocene (Santacrucian Age).
In this chapter, we review the paleoecology of the sparassodonts known from the
Santa Cruz Formation and include new results obtained by geometric morphometric
analyses. The Santa Cruz Formation contains 11 sparassodont species: six
Hathliacynidae (Acyon tricuspidatus,
Cladosictis patagonica, Sipalocyon gracilis, Sipalocyon obusta, Pseudonotictis
pungens) and five Borhyaenoidea (Prothylacynus patagonicus, Lycopsis
torresi, and three Borhyaenidae, Borhyaena tuberata, Acrocyon
sectorius, and Arctodictis
munizi). These sparassodonts were mainly hypercarnivores
exhibiting different locomotor abilities (from scansorial to terrestrial), and a
wide range of body masses (from 1 kg to more than 50 kg). The reconstruction of
the Santacrucian predator guild suggests that there was good ecological
separation within the sparassodonts, determined by particular combinations of
body size, locomotion, and diet. The diversity of sparassodonts recorded in the
Santa Cruz Formation (11 species) and in the Estancia La Costa Member (seven
species), is similar to that observed in present and past placental