Mammalian Evolution and the Great American Interchange

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Science  12 Mar 1982:
Vol. 215, Issue 4538, pp. 1351-1357
DOI: 10.1126/science.215.4538.1351


A reciprocal and apparently symmetrical interchange of land mammals between North and South America began about 3 million years ago, after the appearance of the Panamanian land bridge. The number of families of land mammals in South America rose from 32 before the interchange to 39 after it began, and then back to 35 at present. An equivalent number of families experienced a comparable rise and decline in North America during the same interval. These changes in diversity are predicted by the MacArthur-Wilson species equilibrium theory. The greater number of North American genera (24) initially entering South America than the reverse (12) is predicted by the proportions of reservoir genera on the two continents. However, a later imbalance caused by secondary immigrants (those which evolved from initial immigrants) is not expected from equilibrium theory.

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