Isostylomys: A Rodent of Unusual Size – #365papers – 2017 – 107

#365papers for April 17, 2017

Rinderknecht, Bostelmann, annd Ubilla, 2017, Making a giant rodent: cranial anatomy and ontogenetic development in the genus Isostylomys (Mammalia, Hystricognathi, Dinomyidae): Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, DOI: 10.1080/14772019.2017.1285360.

What’s it about?

Isostylomys is (was) a giant rodent from the Miocene of Uruguay. By giant, I mean larger than the largest rodent today. I mean huge.

The authors here discuss the status of the genus and its relationships with other rodents. Importantly, they show how it is very possible that some species of South American large rodents might be juvenile forms of giant rodents like Isostylomys.

Why does it matter?

In paleontology, the way we define species is by appearance. It’s important to have our identifications correct if we want to talk about evolutionary relationships, or ancient ecology, or anything involving the fossil organisms. If we have mis-identified species, whether by accidentally considering juveniles a separate species, or mistaking morphological diversity in a single species as evidence for multiple species, then our interpretations will be in error.

Why did I read this?

I’m a big fan of giant rodents. As it happens, I spent some time in Uruguay with the first two authors doing isotopic study of three different species of fossil Uruguayan giant rodents as well as the modern capybara. You can read more about it on this blog post I wrote years ago.


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