Miocene Characid Fishes from Colombia: Evolutionary Stasis and Extirpation

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Science  10 Oct 1986:
Vol. 234, Issue 4773, pp. 208-209
DOI: 10.1126/science.234.4773.208


Fossil fishes from the Miocene La Venta fauna of the Magdalena River Valley, Colombia, are identified as Colossoma macropomum (Characidae), a living species from the Orinoco and Amazon basins. The fossils document a long and conservative history for a species that is highly specialized for feeding on streamside plants. The phylogenetically advanced position of Colossoma in the subfamily Serrasalminae implies that six related genera and other higher characid taxa originated well before 15 million years ago. This discovery also corroborates neontological evidence for a vicariance event that contributed species from Miocene Orinoco-Amazon faunas to the original Magdalena region fauna. The fossils suggest a formerly diverse Magdalena fauna that has suffered local extinction, perhaps associated with late Cenozoic tectonism. This new evidence may help explain the depauperate nature of the modern Magdalena River.