Chucal Nesodon, mesothereChucal is located in the Altiplano (high plateau) of northern Chile at an elevation nearly 4,500 m. As far as we are aware, it is the highest vertebrate fossil locality in the western hemisphere. It is also among the highest vertebrate fossil sites in the world. The area was at a much lower elevation when its fossils were deposited about 18 million years ago, and at that time, the region supported a diverse and abundant mammal fauna of at least 18 different species. Interestingly, some of the mammals present at Chucal belong to groups that were not present in southern South America (Patagonia) at that time. Thus, Chucal is important for documenting what is known as “provinciality,” or the presence of different mammals in different places. For example, mesotheriid notoungulates are common and diverse at Chucal but are unknown in faunas of similar age from southern Chile and Argentina. Similarly, interatheriids (another family of small notoungulates) and ground sloths are common in Patagonian fossil sites but have not yet been recorded at Chucal. By combining information from Chucal with data from other Chilean and Bolivian faunas, we will better understand when and how such provinciality originated and what effects it has had on modern faunas. The ungulates of Chucal were described in 2004, and we tackled the cingulates (armadillos and glyptodonts) in 2007. We published a paper on the chinchillid rodents in 2021 and are now working on the other rodents that have been found at the site.

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