Present day South America as seen from space
|Area||18,250,000 km2 (5 Ma)|
15,400,000 km2 (35 Ma)
|Part of||Americas, Gondwana, Novopangaea|
|Ecoregions||Pampas, Cerrado, Andes, Guiana Highlands, rainforest, tundra (5 Ma)|
South America is one of the great successes in isolation and biodiversity. Three million years ago, during the Great American Interchange, this biodiversity soon spread to the rest of the world. But as time went on, these species went extinct in foreign lands. South America will soon see the greatest inflow of mammals the world has ever seen, and while these mammals go extinct in the rest of the world, South America is oblivious of the rising supercontinent of Borealia, and more importantly, of that the rest of the world is dominated by reptiles.
Five Million Years LaterEdit
During the remainder of the ice age, the interchange is mostly coming into South America, and all of the endemic South American fauna stays endemic. The jungles of the Amazon have been downsized, and the rest of South America is a mix of grasslands and tundra.
The Amazon rainforest is now localised to the floodplains of the river, meaning that the true Amazon rainforest lies solely in a small stretch of northern Brazil. The floodplain is smaller due to the drying of some of the more distant tributaries in ice age conditions. However, another rainforest, and another river system have risen: the drainage basin of the Great Columbian River. An overflow of water into Lake Titicaca 3 million years in the future meant that a overflow proxy had to be created. Over the next two million years, this robbed the Amazon of inflow water, carrying much of this water into a new Great Columbian River flowing to the Pacific Ocean just west of the Isthmus of Panama. A new rainforest sprouted up, covering much of Columbia and parts of Venezuela and Brazil.
The swift kingbird, Tyrannus aerobaticus, is a small tyrant flycatcher native to the Amazon and Great Columbian rainforests. Reaching about 10 cm in length, this bright yellow kingbird is a swift flyer, and it needs this to defend itself from the swooping eagles and hawks which prey on it and its kin. The swift kingbird has long plumage, a result of sexual selection, and males fan their feathers in a mating ritual. The swift kingbird feeds on insects, shrubs, and berries. Its bill is more robust to squish insects and take large bites of tough vegetation. It has two subspecies, one for each rainforest, with the Great Columbian rainforest variety (T. a. minutis) being smaller and more hummingbird-like than the chubbier Amazon rainforest variety (T. a. brasilianus).
|Future of The World|
|This is a part of Future of The World: a collaborative project about our planet's future|
Ornate quetzals, Pharomachrus ornatus, are an excellent example of the handicap theory of evolution. Inheriting the already ornate tail, crest, and plumage of their ancestors; the ornate quetzal took this a step further and has a tail twice as long as its ancestors, a crest like a Steller's jay, and plumage as thick as peafowl (without the fanning tail, however). They have nearly every colour in the rainbow in their coat. This results in a near inability to fly, but since the handicap theory states that an animal must be very fit to survive with a handicap, the ornate quetzal naturally has an advantage. It may be a unique trait among birds, and that is the ability to huddle together in a formation so that they look like a giant bird, not a collection of quetzals. While some of the duller predators may be tricked, falcons are not so easily fooled, and they are the ornate quetzal's most common predator.
Out of all mammalian predators which could reach South America, it was the fisher, Martes pennanti, which did. This originated with an urbanisation of the species, but as humans eventually retreated to space, it was left on its own. While it would be expected to go extinct after a loss of habitat, this left the tropical marten, Martes omnivora, as one of the most adaptable carnivores in the world. After going south to cities like Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, the tropical marten eventually settled to the west in the Amazon rainforest. There, it preys on fish and insects, and also eats much of the lush green vegetation. The tropical marten is absent from the Great Columbian rainforest.
The delta capybara, Hydrochoeris hydrochaeris juxtamare, is a genetically distinct population of capybaras which inhabits the Amazon River delta. The delta capybara has been isolated from the rest of South America because of a deep basin which formed within 200 kilometers of the delta. Unable to cross the barrier, the delta capybara is a conservative population, while all other capybara populations have become nimble and long-legged. Another distinct characteristic of the delta capybara are the hypsodont teeth found in their molars and, in some rare individuals, premolars. The tough vegetation of the swampy areas it inhabits must be crushed to a pulp to be eaten, and near the Atlantic Ocean especially, other plants are comparatively rare.
Fisherman peccaries, Tayassu quartaquatilius, are native to the amazon floodplain, around 1.1 meters tall at the shoulders and 110 kg. It stands in shallow water with its snout partially submerged in the water. The snout is lined with pressure sensors similar to that of a crocodile's in order to detect passing fish. The sensors also help to detect any nearby aquatic predators that want to eat it. When fish come close enough, it lunges and swallows the fish before chewing it up with its back molars. The fisherman peccary also eats small reptiles like lizards or even baby crocodilians. Of course, its usually the latter that eats them.
The creeper caiman, Caiman inexpectatus, is a species of caiman inhabiting the marshes of the Amazon and Great Columbian rainforests. A brown and murky colour helps the creeper caiman camouflage into its surroundings. Often buried under mud or rocks, it is approached by many herbivores without a single suspicion arising. As the prey gets within three meters of the creeper caiman, the caiman has placed its jaw on the ground and is detecting vibrations. The caiman has a high metabolism, allowing it to make a nearly complete jump out of the debris pile and quickly approach its prey. Able to move at up to 17 kph, the caiman will almost always be successful, no matter whether the prey is a guanacolope, a bovid, or a monkey. One elusive animal, however, is able to probe the caiman's weaknesses to its advantage.
Cebus caecus, the white-bearded capuchin, is a capuchin monkey which has an unusual lifestyle in the Amazon rainforest. The only known solitary capuchin, the white-bearded capuchin has a black coat with a white "beard" below its face. An omnivorous species, the capuchin cannot survive without meat. Usually, this means rodents for meat with nuts and berries for plants, but sometimes they team up and this unexpected behaviour allows them to hunt larger prey. The creeper caiman can be manipulated by their taps and their throwing of sticks and nuts, and through this it jolts without seeing the capuchins, as their dark coat allows them to camouflage as well. The small caimans, only two meters long, can be killed by a blow to the head, and the monkeys will find coconuts or other heavy objects to throw. This is often unsuccessful, however. The shear force of the caiman's jaws can kill multiple members of the tribe, and often it is a trade of lives for lives, but the caiman can feed the entire tribe for over a week. It seems not to be the white-bearded capuchins' decision, though. A parasite is infecting them to go insane.
Xenostoma capucinus is a species of parasitic wasp infecting populations of capuchin monkeys. Part of a new genus (Xenostoma) in the family Braconidae, Xenostoma capucinus is specialised, like other members of its genus, to obtain mental control of its host. One of the more notable effects of being parasitised by any member of Xenostoma is having extreme aggression towards predators; in X. capucinus this causes the white-bearded capuchin to congregate in groups and attack caimans. The wasp is trying to transfer its genes in the usual strange life cycle of parasites.
The life of an X. capucinus begins in a fungus species known as Clavulina delicia, which is edible among the white-bearded capuchin population, a minor mutation. As the X. capucinus eggs are mixed in with the spores of C. delicia, the capuchins will on average ingest two or three in an infected fungus. Usually, none will survive, but the capuchins find many nutrients in C. delicia, and will eat it in large amounts. Once an egg survives within a capuchin, the wasp begins eating the capuchin, and driving it insane. It becomes more aggressive towards predators, and may eventually be killed. The wasp larva then uses the predator as the next host, until it is mature and mates, laying its eggs in any other mammal, and as the eggs come out as waste, the waste is decomposed by the C. delicia fungus, and the circle of life restarts.
One of the most iconic plains of South America, the Pampas have become colder and less habitable than they were during the Holocene. Glaciers near the edge of the plains in this region. But life here lives on, and the Pampas life is just as spectacular as before.
Guanacolopes, Lama antilopis, are a newly evolved species of South American camelid. The guanaco, a wild relative of the more notable llama, became more extensively preyed on, but the guanaco's very nimble shape compared to its domestic relatives comes as an advantage in outrunning other species. As the southern reaches of South America, home of the guanacos, turned to tundra, the guanacos moved towards the Pampas, evolving some of their characteristic features in the process. Meanwhile, the llamas and alpacas left to fend for themselves were in a sticky situation, as the the more stocky build was defenseless against the more potent predators. As the inflow of bovids continues, endemic species like guanacolopes hold them back. While the guanacolope has the basic wild camelid bodily shape, an unusual featured among mature males are ossicone-like horns on the top of its head, making it vaguely reminiscent of an okapi. It is one of the most nimble artiodactyls in South America, easily outrunning other species like caprines at speeds of up to 45 kph. The guanacolopes are mainly preyed on by big cats, especially jaguars, but even for fast-running jaguars the guanacolope is hard to catch.
While the guanacolope fills the role of large grazer, another herbivorous species inhabits the pampas coming from a surprising group: the canids. The Pampas Frugizorro, Chrysocyon fructuvora pampasensis is a descendant of the maned wolf which has completely switched its already omnivorous diet to frugivorous one, feeding entirely on berries and other fruits with the occasional tuber or very rarely carrion. Originally native to the much more lush cerrado up north, the pampas population of frugizorros are much more stockier and shorter to conserve body heat at 45 cm at the shoulders compared to its ancestral subspecies' 75. Predators include jaguars and moonlions.
A species that made it across from central to south America was the American Black Bear. The bears of South America evolved into the Barbaloot bear, Ursus artagus . It's name is derived from the fictional animals in Dr. Seuss's book "The Lorax". Standing little more than a meter and a half in height. They primarily eat fruit and leaves in the treetops, but will occasionally raid a bird's nest or at night come down form the trees and scavenge off of the carrion left by moonlions and jaguars.
Cerrado EditIn the present day, the Cerrado is the vast tropical savannah found in much of Brazil, one of the world's richest in terms of biodiversity and endemism. Five million years time, with the reduction of the rainforests to just the floodplains around the Amazon river, the cerrado is now one of the largest habitats in South America, extending across the entirety of the northern areas of the continent. The wildlife is just as diverse as it is in the present, with a mixture of endemic species coexisting with species that have migrated from North America.
One of the most common herbivores in this grasslands are the Cerrado bison, Bison australis, which is also the largest South American animal. Descended from the American bison, which migrated from South America following the start of the New Ice Age, the bison thrived with the general lack of other large herbivores in the environment, and became one of the Cerrado's main grazing animals. Although their size means that the majority of South American predators, such as moonlions, are too small to hunt these herbivores, the Cerrado bison are still prey to some of the larger grassland predators.
Another migrant from North America that has had similar success is the Redbuck, Antilocapra vernalis, a descendant and offshoot of the Pronghorn. Sharing their ecosystem with other migratory species such as the Cerrado bison, as well as native species like the Guanacolopes, redbucks are easily the fastest land animal in South America, reaching speeds of up to 55 mph, and like their northern ancestors can maintain high speeds longer than other animals. Another key to their success is their ancestor's trait of being able to feed on plants that are unpalatable or even toxic to other herbivores, which allows them to maximize their grazing range. Largely similar to pronghorns, redbucks do have a few notable differences, such as more distinct sexual dimorphism; redbuck females lack horns completely, whereas pronghorn females only have smaller horns.
Not all herbivores in the Cerrado are mammals. In fact, some of the largest grazers and browsers are birds. Such is the case of the Elephant rhea, Rhea maximus, which is the world's largest bird since the extinct elephant birds of Madagascar, with mature females reaching up to 2.7 meters (9 feet) tall and weighing up to 230 kgs (510 lbs), being almost nine times the size of their ancestors. Taking the place of tall mammal browsers such as giraffes, elephant rheas are well adapted to feed on the leaves of small trees and brush, and as such are more common around more forested areas of the Cerrado, although they aren't uncommon in open grasslands either. Elephant moas usually live in groups consisting of one or two males, a few females, and their offspring. Females lay clutches of up to four eggs, which are about twice the size of an ostrich egg, and all adults in a group care for the incubating eggs, as well as the hatchlings. Due to their size and social structures, adult elephant rheas are often outside the size class of all but the largest of predators, although juveniles are often more vulnerable.