Research projects

Prof. Dr. Marcelo Sánchez
Palaeobiology of fossil vertebrates in South America
March 2007 to September 2018
Funding sources
National Geographic Society (turtle project); Previous funding supported by SNF, National Geographic Society, Universität Tübingen, Natural History Museum London, and the Percy Sladen Memorial Fund.
Carlos Jaramillo (Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute) (Venezuela)
Rodolfo Salas (Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute) (Argentina)
Edwin Cadena (Yachay Tech. University) (Ecuador)
world map
Vertebrate palaeontology of the northern Neotropics is almost non-existent and hence there are many unanswered questions about biogeography and evolution in that part of the world. Of particular significance is the exploration for new fossils to test: 1) a hypothesis on the origin of the Caribbean fauna, involving a land connection between Nortwestern South America and the Greater Antilles, and 2) the changing course of the Orinoco River, hypothesized to have had its delta during late Palaeogene and early Neogene times in what is today northwestern Venezuela.
The goals of this project are to: (1) explore poorly known areas of Venezuela and Colombia for fossil vertebrates (while collecting also for invertebrates for palaeoenvironmental reconstruction or for stratigraphic work); (2) describe fossil faunas, including species descriptions; and (3) conduct palaeobiological studies (e.g., palaeohistology) aiming at reconstructing life history and ecological variables in the extinct species there studied; (4) expand this work to higher latitudes to make faunal comparisons and test differnet hypotheses about the evolution of diverse vertebrate groups.
Gondwana, Venezuela, vertebrates, biogeography, palaeobiology
Carrillo-Briceńo JD, Argyriou T, Zapata V, Kindlimann R, Jaramillo C (2016) A new early Miocene (Aquitanian) Elasmobranchii assemblage from the la Guajira Peninsula, Colombia. Ameghiniana 53:77–99.
Pérez LM, Pérez Panera JP, Aguilera OA, Ronchi DI, Sánchez R, Manceńido MO, Sánchez-Villagra MR. 2016 Palaeontology, sedimentology, and biostratigraphy of a fossiliferous outcrop of the Early Miocene Querales Formation, Falcón Basin, Venezuela. Swiss Journal of Palaeontology 135:187–203.
Carrillo-Briceńo JD, Sánchez-Villagra MR (2015) Tortugas del pasado: una mirada al registro fósil en Venezuela. Pp. 165-181. In: Trebau P, Pritchard PCH Tortugas de Venezuela. Oscar Todtmann Editores.
Carrillo-Briceńo JD, Cadena EA, Dececchi AT, Larson HCE, Du TY (2016) First record of a hybodont shark (Chondrichthyes: Hybodontiformes) from the Lower Cretaceous of Colombia. Neotropical Biodiversity 2(1):81-86.
Hastings A, Reisser M, Scheyer TM (2016) Character evolution and the origin of Caimaninae (Crocodylia) in the New World tropics: new evidence from the Miocene of Panama and Venezuela. Journal of Paleontology 90(2):317-332.
Amson E, Carrillo JD, Jaramillo C (2016) Neogene sloth assemblages (Mammalia, Pilosa) of the Cocinetas Basin (La Guajira, Colombia) implications for the Great American Biotic Interchange. Palaeontology 59 (4):563–582
Carrillo JD, Jaramillo C, Forasiepi AM, Sánchez-Villagra MR. 2015. Mammal Neotropical diversity and the Great American Biotic Interchange: a palaeontological perspective from northern South America. Frontiers in Genetics 5 (451):1-11 [doi: 10.3389/fgene.2014.00451].
Carrillo JD, Sánchez-Villagra MR. 2015. Giant rodents from the northern Neotropics: diversity and dental variation of late Miocene neoepiblemid remains from Urumaco, Venezuela. Paläontologische Zeitschrift 89:1057-1071.
Vallejo-Pareja MC, Carrillo JD, Moreno-Bernal JW, Pardo-Jaramillo M, Rodriguez-Gonzalez DF, Muńoz-Duran J (2015) Hilarcotherium castanedaii, gen. et sp. nov., a new Miocene astrapothere (Mammalia, Astrapotheriidae) from the Upper Magdalena Valley, Colombia. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 35(2): e903960
Carrillo-Briceńo JD, Maxwell E, Aguilera OA, Sánchez R, Sánchez-Villagra MR (2015) Sawfishes and other elasmobranch assemblages from the Mio-Pliocene of the South Caribbean (Urumaco sequence, Northwestern Venezuela). PLoS ONE 10(10): e0139230
Moreno F, Hendy AJW, Quiroz L, Hoyos N, Jones DS, Zapata V, Zapata S, Ballen GA, Cadena E, Cárdenas AL, Carrillo-Briceńo JD, Carrillo JD, Delgado-Sierra D, Escobar J, Martínez JI, Martínez C, Montes C, Moreno J, Pérez N, Sánchez R, Suárez C, Vallejo-Pareja MC, Jaramillo C (2015) Revised stratigraphy of Neogene strata in the Cocinetas Basin, La Guajira, Colombia. Swiss Journal of Palaeontology: 1-39
Forasiepi AM, Soibelzon LH, Suarez Gomez C, Sánchez R, Quiroz LI, Jaramillo C, Sánchez-Villagra MR. 2014. Carnivorans at the Great American Biotic Interchange: new discoveries from the northern Neotropics. Naturwissenschaften 101: 965-974.
Castro MC, Carlini AA, Sánchez R, Sánchez-Villagra MR 2014. A new Dasypodini (Xenarhtra: Cingulata) from San Gregorio Formation, Pliocene of Venezuela: Affinities and Biogeographic Interpretations. Naturwissenschaften [doi: 10.1007/s00114-013-1131-5].
Scheyer TM, Aguilera OA, Delfino M, Fortier DC, Carlini AA, Sánchez R, Carrillo-Briceńo J, Quiroz L,
Sánchez-Villagra MR. 2013. Crocodylian diversity peak and extinction in the late Cenozoic of the northern Neotropics. Nature Communications. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms2940.
Geiger M, Wilson LAB, Costeur L, Sánchez R, Sánchez-Villagra MR. 2013. Diversity and growth in giant caviomorphs from the northern neotropics – a study of femoral variation in Phoberomys (Rodentia). Journal Vertebrate Paleontology 33: 1449-1456.
Aguilera O, Lundberg J, Birindelli J, Sabaj Pérez M, Jaramillo C, Sánchez-Villagra MR. 2013. Palaeontological evidence for the last temporal occurrence of the ancient western Amazonian river inflow into the Caribbean. Plos One 8(9):e76202. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0076202.
Sánchez-Villagra MR (ed). 2012. Venezuela Paleontológica. Printworkart Press. 382 pp.
Aguilera OA, Feijó Ramos MI, Tavares Paes E, Regina Ferreira Costa SA, Sánchez-Villagra MR. 2011. The Neogene Tropical America Fish Assemblage and the Paleobiogeography of the Caribbean region. Swiss Journal of Palaeontology 130: 217-240.
Sánchez-Villagra MR, Aguilera OA, Carlini AA (eds). 2010. Urumaco and Venezuelan Palaeontology – The fossil record of the Northern Neotropics. Indiana University Press. 286 pp.
Mihaljevic M, Klug C, Aguilera O, Wyss P, Lüthi T, Sánchez-Villagra MR. 2010. Venezuelan echinoids: their fossil record and new material from the Neogene. Palaeontologia Electronica 13(3):20A:36p.
Vucetich MG, Carlini AA, Aguilera O, Sánchez-Villagra MR. 2010. The Tropics as reservoir of otherwise extinct mammals: the case of rodents from a new Pliocene faunal assemblage from northern Venezuela. Journal of Mammalian Evolution. 17:265-273.
Johnson KG, Sánchez-Villagra MR, Aguilera O. 2009. The Oligocene/Miocene transition on coral reefs in the Falcón Basin (NW Venezuela). Palaios. 24: 59-69.
Sánchez-Villagra MR, Aguilera O (eds). 2008. Vertebrate Palaeontology in Venezuela. Palaeontologische Zeitschrift. 82:103-245.
Sánchez-Villagra MR (ed). 2006. New Vertebrate Finds from the Neogene of Venezuela. Journal of Systematic Palaeontology. 4(3), 211-306.
Sánchez-Villagra MR, Clack JA (eds). 2004. Fossils of the Castillo Formation, Venezuela: Contributions on Neotropical Palaeontology. Special Papers in Palaeontology, 71. 112 pp.
Johnson KG, Sánchez-Villagra MR, Aguilera O. 2009. The Oligocene/Miocene transition on coral reefs in the Falcón Basin (NW Venezuela). Palaios. In press.
Barrett PM, Butler RJ, Novas FE, Moore-Fay S, Moody JM, Clark JM, Sánchez-Villagra MR. 2008. Dinosaur remains from the La Quinta Formation (Lower or Middle Jurassic) of the Venezuelan Andes. In: Vertebrate Palaeontology in Venezuela. Eds: Sánchez-Villagra MR., Aguilera O. Palaeontologische Zeitschrift. 82: 163-177.
Sánchez-Villagra MR, Brinkmann W, Lozsán R. 2008. The Palaeozoic and Mesozoic vertebrate record of Venezuela: An overview and summary of previous discoveries. In: Vertebrate Palaeontology in Venezuela. Eds: Sánchez-Villagra MR., Aguilera O. Palaeontologische Zeitschrift. 82: 113-124.
Scheyer T, Sánchez-Villagra MR. 2007. Carapace bone histology in the giant Stupendemys geographicus (Pleurodira: Podocnemidae): phylogenetic and functional aspects. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 52:137-154.
Head JJ, Sánchez-Villagra MR, Aguilera O. 2006. Past colonization of South America by trionychid turtles: Fossil evidence from the Neogene of Margarita Island, Venezuela. Journal of Herpetology 40: 378-381.
Winkler JD, Sánchez-Villagra MR. 2006. A nesting site and egg morphology of a Miocene turtle from Urumaco, Venezuela: direct evidence of marine adaptations in a pelomedusoides . Palaeontology. 49: 641-646.
Sánchez-Villagra MR, Aguilera OA, Horovitz I. 2003. The anatomy of the world's largest extinct rodent. Science , 301: 1708-1710.