Diversity and biostratigraphy of the late Oligocene-late Miocene sand dollars (Echinoidea: Scutelliformes) of Argentina and Uruguay
Introduction: Scutelliforms were diverse and widespread in shallow marine environments during Neogene times in South America. Nevertheless, they have almost never been used as biostratigraphic tools. Objective: To provide a refined stratigraphic frame useful for calibrating temporal dimensions of scutelliform diversity from Argentina and Uruguay and its correlation with the molluscan assemblages previously proposed. Methods: A detailed survey of their geographic and stratigraphic provenance was carried out. We revised both the bibliography and collections (institutional and from our own field work). Results: The group is represented by 14 species belonging to six genera, and four assemblages were identified. Numerical dates of the Neogene marine rocks obtained recently allowed their placement in a chronological scheme: “Iheringiella” sp. A is restricted to the late Oligocene, the genera Camachoaster and “Eoscutella” and the species Monophoraster telfordi to the early Miocene, Abertella gualichensis and Abertella miskellyi to the middle Miocene, and Monophoraster duboisi, Amplaster coloniensis and Amplaster ellipticus to the late Miocene. Non-lunulate scutelliforms are not restricted to the late Oligocene as previously supposed. The oldest occurrence of the genus Monophoraster corresponds to the early Miocene, and along with Iheringiella are long-living taxa that embrace the 25.3 Ma-18.1 Ma (Iheringiella patagonensis) and approximately 15 Ma-6.48 Ma (Monophoraster darwini) intervals. The presence of Iheringiella in the early Miocene of northeastern Patagonia is corroborated, reaching there its northernmost distribution. Monophoraster darwini has a temporal range from the late Miocene (where it was previously thought to be restricted) back to the middle Miocene, since this is the species yielded in the well-known and discussed “Monophoraster and Venericor Beds”. Conclusions: The Paleogene-Neogene scutelliforms of Argentina and Uruguay range from the late Oligocene to the late Miocene. There is a good correspondence among the numerical ages, molluscan biozones and scutelliform assemblages.