| This tiny vole is known from skeletal remains found in cave deposits on
the Mediterranean islands of Corsica and Sardinia (both of which were extensions
of the continent during the mid-Pleistocene). The extinction of this small
rodent is believed to have occurred around 2,000 years ago, quite possibly
as a result of pressures wrought by hungry humans, their commensal dogs, as
well as immigrant foxes and weasels. It should be noted that some researchers
feel Tyrrhenicola is one and the same with Microtus, a living
vole genus with much broader distribution.
See also: Vigne, J.-D., 1992. Zooarchaeology and the biogeographical history of the mammals of Corsica and Sardinia since the last ice age. Mammal Rev., 22(2):87-96.
| This hutia resembled a large guinea pig, approaching six or seven pounds.
It is known from Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, a few of the Virgin Islands, and
their satellites. Abundant remains of Isolobodon portoricensis have
been found in Indian middens -- clearly refuse from someone's lunch. Skulls
of this species sometimes show an interesting breakage pattern: punctures and
scratches line the skull caps, while the bases of the skulls, plus bones of
nasal regions have been torn away. Skeletal collections are peppered with paleopathologies,
including abcessed teeth, broken and rehealed limbs, swollen joints -- all
of which suggest captivity. It has been suggested that I. portoricensis
originated on Hispaniola (whence its next of kin I. montanus hails and
was transported to the other islands by the Tainos (an Indian people). Extinction
of this species is believed to have occurred after European colonization of
the West Indies, but some researchers hold out hopes that the Puerto Rican
hutia survives to this day in undisturbed refuges.
See also: Woods, C. A., 1996. The land mammals of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Ann. New York Acad. Sci., Vol. 776:131-148.
| Another entry in the long list of extinct West Indian rodents, Elasmodontomys
was a sizable critter, like a small beaver (Castor canadensis). Restricted
to Puerto Rico, Elasmodontomys is one of ten or so Antillean genera
that suffered extinction after the terminal Pleistocene, but before European
occupation of the islands, according to "high quality" radiocarbon
dates. Although the skeleton of this species is known in detail, it has been
found in only a few sites. It is not known what caused the demise of this species,
though it should be noted that plate-tooths have never been found in association
with human remains or artifacts.
See also: Anthony, H. E., 1918. The indigenous land mammals of Porto Rico, living and extinct. Mem. Amer. Mus. Nat. Hist., new series, Vol. II, Part II, pp. 333-435, plates 55-74.
| The extant capybara (Hydrochaeris hydrochaeris) of northern South
America is the largest living rodent, reaching up to 110 pounds of living rodent
flesh! Yet, as is so often the case, the Pleistocene representative of the
group was even larger (nearly 40% larger according to some estimates). The
geographic range of the extinct giant capybara (whose ancestors crossed the
Panamanian landbridge only 2-3 million years previously) included Texas, Florida,
and South Carolina. Why did this species become extinct? Just another megafaunal
beast subjected to the vicissitudes that the end-Pleistocene introduced to
the Americas -- overkill? climate change? disease? It remains to be seen. There
are no known associations with humans.
See also: Kurtén, B., and E. Anderson, 1980. Pleistocene Mammals of North America. Columbia University Press: New York.