When Rodents Rafted Across the Ocean


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The best evidence we have suggests that, while Caviomorpha originated in South America, they came from ancestors in Africa, over 40 million years ago. So how did they get there?

This episode was written by Genevieve Perdue.

Thanks to Ceri Thomas for the Josephoartigasia monesi reconstruction. Check out more of Ceri’s paleoart at and

Produced in collaboration with PBS Digital Studios:

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Lavocat, R. “La syste´matique des rongeurs hystricomorphes et la de´rive des continents.” Comptes Rendus de l’Académie des Sciences Series D 269 (1969).

Merali, Z., and B.J. Skinner. Visualizing Earth Science (2009). Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Mones, A., and J. Ojasti. “Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris.” Mammalian Species 264(1986).

Morrison, M.L., Marcot, B.G., and R.W. Mannan. Wildlife-Habitat Relationships: Concepts and Applications, 3rd ed. (2006). Washington, D.C.: Island Press.
Nowak, R. M. Walker’s mammals of the world, 5th ed. (1991). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Patton, J. L., Pardiñas, U. F. J., and G. D’Elía. Mammals of South America, Vol. 2, Rodents (2015). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Scotese, C.R. “A Continental Drift Flipbook.” The Journal of Geology 112.6 (2004).
Simpson, G.G. 1940. “Mammals and land bridges.” Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences 30 (1940).

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  1. You guys should make a video about the java mouse-deer. I want to know what it's related to and how it evolved

  2. Well this is even more possible if you consider that most small mammals like these don't actually drink water, they get water from nuts and fruits they eat (I'm surprised I'm having to say this) and the ones that floated over could have been a result of gathering or eating these things during a flood or heavy rainstorm, or during such an event they could have retreated to the trees where they would gather them because it was familiar either way I'd say it not only possible its likely

  3. Please remove videos of this woman, i dont want to see her, there is nothing wrong with her, but i want so see animals ans maps

  4. Interesting theory you have there, but it doesn't explain Tribbles, does it? Curious omission, indeed.

  5. Scientists can be sometimes stupid just cause they haven’t found older fossils doesn’t mean there aren’t any let’s just say they floated there and make data that shows it’s possible lmao

  6. I wonder why there where so many niches in south america. is there an other pbs-video that explains this?

  7. All animals may have migrated beyond our imagination. We have to have new thinking. Our oceans would have been very very shallow and they would have just walked across. Very unlikely that they will survive the long distances on logs and bushes, they will never go so far and we have never seen. Non of the videos have taken in to account about the depth of water levels of our Oceans. We still see that water levels are increasing by the thousands of years.

  8. Id venture to say that the common ancestor when pangea broke apart was in both locations and evolved at different times. I doubt they "sailed" the ocean by accident.


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