NEW PLEISTOCENE CAVE FAUNAS OF THE ANDES OF CENTRAL PERÚ:
RADIOCARBON AGES AND THE SURVIVAL OF LOW LATITUDE, PLEISTOCENE DNA
Peruvian citizens have led our team to their discoveries of Pleistocene cave faunas in the central Andes of Perú. These caves (Jatun Uchco, Departamento de Huánuco; Cueva Roselló, Departamento de Junín; and Trigo Jirka, Departamento de Huánuco) preserve numerous carnivorans (Puma, a sabercat [Smilodon populator], an unnamed large extinct felid, fox [Lycalopex sp.], hognose skunk [Conepatus sp.]), deer (cf. Pudu and cf. Hippocamelus),
vicuña, an extinct horse (†Onohippidium devillei), a chinchillid rodent (cf. Lagidium), bats (Anoura, Desmodus, and Platalina), and sloths (†Megatherium, †Scelidodon, and, †Diabolotherium). Bats were found only in the lowest cave (Jatun Uchco, 2,150 m), and ungulates were found only at Cueva Roselló—the only cave studied in a region of flat terrain. Trigo Jirka preserved ancient feces of a large animal and the keratin claw of †Diabolotherium.
Collagen for radiocarbon dating and DNA for phylogenetic studies have been isolated from bone from Cueva Roselló (3,875 m) and Trigo Jirka (2,700 m). Conventional radiometric ages from Cueva Roselló are 23,340 ± 120 and 22,220 ± 130 years before present and that of Trigo Jirka is 29,140 ± 260. Ancient DNA (aDNA)
from †Onohippidium of Cueva Roselló (12° South latitude) and
†Diabolotherium of Trigo Jirka (10° South) is being used in phylogenetic studies. The successful recovery of aDNA suggests that the cool temperatures, low humidity, and the shield from UV radiation of caves at high elevation can permit aDNA studies at low latitudes. Previously, such studies have been limited to latitudes greater than 35° for Pleistocene samples.
KEY WORDS: Pleistocene; cave fauna; Great American Biotic Interchange; South American mammals; Ancient DNA; palynology; radiocarbon ages
PE Article Number: 12.3.15A
Copyright: Society for Vertebrate Paleontology December 2009
Submission: 11 February 2009. Acceptance: 6 November 2009