New Palaeogene metatherians from the Quebrada de Los Colorados Formation at Los Cardones National Park (Salta Province, Argentina)
The Quebrada de Los Colorados Formation (Los Cardones National Park, Salta Province, north-western Argentina), is an Eocene–Oligocene unit well represented in the Calchaquí Valley area. Here we describe a new metatherian association recorded from the base of this formation, inferred as middle Eocene. Represented taxa are: Sparassodonta, family indet.: Patene simpsoni; Polydolopimorphia, Bonapartheriiformes, Argyrolagoidea: family, genus, and species indet.; and Bonapartherioidea, Prepidolopidae: Punadolops alonsoi and Coloradolops cardonensis gen. et sp. nov. Patene simpsoni is also found in the Tonco Valley, near Los Cardones, and at São José de Itaboraí, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Punadolops alonsoi was originally described from the Geste Formation in Salta and Catamarca provinces. Hitherto, no other Argyrolagoidea have been found in north-western Argentina in the Palaeogene. Coloradolops cardonensis is unique to the locality and levels here described. The preservation of part of the skull constitutes the best prepidolopid remains known. North-western Argentina is a key region for the study of the evolution of South American mammals, since it has a singular geographical location between the Neotropics and the southernmost part of South America. Due to biogeographical constraints, it may lead to a better comprehension of the continental distribution of metatherian lineages during Cenozoic times.