Sub-class Placentalia

Order Rodentia

Family Muridae
(rats, mice, voles, hamsters, gerbils, lemmings)

Species Tyrrhenicola henseli

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.


Sub-class Placentalia

Order Rodentia

Family Capromyidae
(West Indian hutias and coneys)

Species Isolobodon portoricensis

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.


Puerto Rican Plate-Tooth
Order Rodentia

Family Heptaxodontidae
(Caribbean plate-tooth rodents)

Species Elasmodontomys obliquus

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.


Sub-class Placentalia

Order Rodentia

Family Hydrochaeridae (Capybaras)

Species Neochoerus pinckneyi

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.