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Temporal range: Pliocene-Holocene (Blancan-Rancholabrean (NALMA) & Montehermosan-Lujanian (SALMA)
~4.9–0.0134 Ma
Cuvieronius hyodon 1.JPG
Skull of C. hyodon
Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle, Paris
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Proboscidea
Family: Gomphotheriidae
Genus: Cuvieronius
Osborn, 1923
Type species
Mastotherium hyodon
Fischer, 1814 (conserved name)
  • Cuvieronius hyodon
    (Fischer, 1814) (conserved name)
  • C. oligobunis
    (Cope, 1893)
  • C. priestleyi
    Hay & Cook, 1930
  • C. tropicus
    (Cope, 1884)


  • Mastotherium Fischer, 1814

C. hyodon

  • C. arellanoi
    Ochoterena & Silva-Bárcenas, 1970?
  • C. tarijensis
    Ficcarelli et al., 1995?

Cuvieronius is an extinct New World genus of gomphothere and is named after the French naturalist Georges Cuvier. Alive, specimens stood, on average, about 2.3 metres (7 ft 7 in) tall at the shoulder, weighed about 3.5 tonnes (3.4 long tons; 3.9 short tons)[2] and would have superficially resembled modern elephants with spiral-shaped tusks.


Molar tooth of Cuvieronius

The species now known as Cuvieronius hyodon was among the first fossil animals from the New World to be studied. The first remains of this species were recovered from Ecuador by Alexander von Humboldt, at a location the local population referred to as the "Field of Giants".[3] Humboldt recognized that, rather than being bones of giant humans as had been thought by the local population and previous Spanish colonists, they were similar to the giant elephants (Mastodon) being described from Ohio. Humboldt sent teeth that he had collected from Mexico, Ecuador, and Chile to French anatomist Georges Cuvier, who classified the teeth into two species, which he referred to as the "mastodonte des cordilières" and the "mastodonte humboldtien", in an 1806 paper.[4] It was not until 1824 that Cuvier formally named the species. He referred both to the genus Mastodon, calling them M. andium and M. humboldtii.[4]

Unknown to Cuvier, Fischer had, in 1814, already named the two species based on Cuvier's original description, in the new genus Mastotherium as M. hyodon and M. humboldtii. The idea of two distinct species continued to be accepted into the 20th century, usually using Cuvier's names, though Fischer's names were older.[4] In 1923, Henry Fairfield Osborn recognized that these species were distinct from Mastodon, and assigned each to its own new genus, as Cuvieronius humboldtii and Cordillerion andium. However, by the 1930s, general agreement had shifted to regard both forms as representing a single, geographically widespread species, with Cuvieronius humboldtii considered to be the correct name.[4] During the 1950s, the nomenclature of this species became increasingly tangled, as various scientists regarded the type species of the genus Cuvieronius to be Fischer's first published name Mastotherium hyodon, rather than the originally designated Mastodon humboldtii. This situation went unaddressed until 2009, when Spencer Lucas petitioned the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature to officially change the type species of Cuvieronius to M. hyodon as had been followed for over 50 years by that time, rather than abandoning the well-known Cuvieronius as a synonym.[4] In 2011, Opinion 2276 of the ICZN ruled to conserve the names.


This animal probably initially evolved in North America, around 5.3—5.2 million years ago (AEO) with fossil evidence uncovered at the Tehuichila site in Hidalgo, Mexico.[5][6] During the Great American Interchange of around 3 million years ago, Cuvieronius and a close relative Notiomastodon probably moved south into South America. They were the only proboscid mammals to colonize South America as part of the Great American Biotic Interchange.[7] living as far south as Chile, with specimens unearthed at the Quereo I site (Quereo Quebrada) dating to the Late Pleistocene 11,600—11,400 BP.[8]

Restoration of C. hyodon

According to Mothé et al.:[9]

Gomphotheriidae (Gomphotheres)




Brevirostrine clade






Distribution and habitat[edit]


The oldest fossil remains to date are of Cuvieronius species found in Lincoln County, Nevada, which date to an accurate 4.6 million years ago (AEO). It was also found as far east as South Carolina and North Carolinain Pleistocene rocks dating to 1.81 million to 126,000 years ago. In Florida, remains show both Cuvieronius sp. and C. tropicus living from 3.7 to 1.5 million years ago (AEO).[10] The most recent findings of Cuvieronius sp. in North America are in Sonora, Mexico, that date to 13,390 years BP.[11]

According to a group of Brazilian mammalogists, many sites in South America referred to Cuvieronius actually refer to Notiomastodon with many previous studies simply labeling fossils one or the other depending on location, with only localities definitely identified as Cuvieronius, the range now extends in the high Andes from Ecuador in the North, to Bolivia in the south, with the localities in the southern Andes in Chile and Argentina now thought to belong to Notiomastodon. The same group attains no confirmed fossils of Cuvieronius exist beyond 44,000 years ago in South America, so the species would not have been in South America at the time of human arrival.[12] By the end of the Pleistocene, the northern limit of the range of Cuvieronius was in Mexico.[6]

Fossils of Cuvieronius have been found in the Ulloma and Tarija Formations of Bolivia, the Sabana Formation of Colombia,[13] Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, United States (Florida, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas), and Venezuela.[1]


  1. ^ a b Cuvieronius at
  2. ^ Larramendi, A. (2016). "Shoulder height, body mass and shape of proboscideans" (PDF). Acta Palaeontologica Polonica. 61. doi:10.4202/app.00136.2014. 
  3. ^ Mayor, A. (2005). Fossil legends of the first Americans. Princeton University Press.
  4. ^ a b c d e Lucas, S.G. (2009). Case 3479 Cuvieronius Osborn, 1923 (Mammalia, Proboscidea): Proposed conservation. Bull. Zool. Nomen, 66, 1-6.
  5. ^ Paleobiology database, Collection 18746, Tehuichila site, State of Hidalgo, Mexico. John Alroy April 30, 1994.
  6. ^ a b Graham, R. W. (2001). "Late Quaternary Biogeography and Extinction of Proboscideans in North America" (PDF). In Cavarretta, G.; Gioia, P.; Mussi, M.; Palombo, M. R. The World of Elephants (La Terra degli Elefanti) - Proceedings of the 1st International Congress [Atti del 1o Congresso Internazionale], Rome October 16–20, 2001. Rome: Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche. pp. 707–709. ISBN 88-8080-025-6. Retrieved 2010-02-27. 
  7. ^ Prado, J. L.; Alberdi, M. T.; Azanza, B.; Sánchez, B.; Frassinetti, D. (2005). "The Pleistocene Gomphotheriidae (Proboscidea) from South America". Quaternary International. 126–128: 21–30. Bibcode:2005QuInt.126...21P. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2004.04.012. 
  8. ^ Paleobiology database, Collection 71265, Quereo Quebrada, Chile. Authority: John Alroy February 5, 1999.
  9. ^ Mothé, Dimila; Ferretti, Marco P.; Avilla, Leonardo S. (12 January 2016). "The Dance of Tusks: Rediscovery of Lower Incisors in the Pan-American Proboscidean Cuvieronius hyodon Revises Incisor Evolution in Elephantimorpha". PLOS ONE. 11: e0147009. Bibcode:2016PLoSO..1147009M. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0147009. 
  10. ^ Paleobiology database. Collections (Florida) 20299 20308 20351, 20400, 20482, 20403, 20475, 20478, 20494, 58089. incl. reposits in Florida Museum of Natural History, 1.8 ma—300,000 ka, Mark D. Uhen, Ph.D. and John Alroy, Ph.D.
  11. ^ Sanchez, Guadalupe; Holliday, Vance T.; Gaines, Edmund P.; Arroyo-Cabrales, Joaquín; Martínez-Tagüeña, Natalia; Kowler, Andrew; Lange, Todd; Hodgins, Gregory W. L.; Mentzer, Susan M. (2014-07-29). "Human (Clovis)–gomphothere (Cuvieronius sp.) association ∼13,390 calibrated yBP in Sonora, Mexico". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 111 (30): 10972–10977. Bibcode:2014PNAS..11110972S. doi:10.1073/pnas.1404546111. ISSN 0027-8424. PMC 4121807Freely accessible. PMID 25024193. 
  12. ^ Mothé, Dimila; dos Santos Avilla, Leonardo; Asevedo, Lidiane; Borges-Silva, Leon; Rosas, Mariane; Labarca-Encina, Rafael; Souberlich, Ricardo; Soibelzon, Esteban; Roman-Carrion, José Luis; Ríos, Sergio D.; Rincon, Ascanio D.; Cardoso de Oliveira, Gina; Pereira Lopes, Renato (30 September 2016). "Sixty years after 'The mastodonts of Brazil': The state of the art of South American proboscideans (Proboscidea, Gomphotheriidae)". Quaternary International. 443: 52–64. Bibcode:2017QuInt.443...52M. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2016.08.028. Retrieved 4 May 2017. 
  13. ^ Correal Urrego, 1990, p.77


External links[edit]