The Litopterna, also known as the pseudo-horse, is an order of fossilmammals from the Tertiary Period that displays toe reduction. Three-toed, and even a one-toed horselike form were developed.
This order, known only from South America, was common and varied in early faunas and persisted, in decreasing variety, into the Pleistocene. Early forms are near the condylarths, to such an extent that the litopterns might be considered merely as surviving and diversely specialized condylarths. They seem to have originated in South America from the South American condylarths, and therefore to have the same source as the latter.
The Litopterna, like the notoungulates and toxodonts, Are examples of ungulate mammals that arose relatively independently in "splendid isolation" on the island continent of South America. Like Australia, South America was isolated from all other continents following the breakup of Gondwana. During this period of isolation, unique mammals evolved to fill ecological niches similar to other mammals elsewhere. The Litopterna played a role in the ecosystem similar to horses in Laurasia.
Families of Litopterns
Order Litopterna - Litopterans (all members of the order extinct South American forms)
Its most dramatic effect is on the zoogeography of mammals but it also gave an opportunity for non-flying arthropods, reptiles, amphibians and even freshwater fish to migrate.
South America was characterised by a strange endemic fauna, consisting only of xenarthrans, notoungulates (the "alternative ungulates"), litopterns and marsupials, like armadillos, sloths (like the giant ground sloth, Megatherium) and anteaters.
The notoungulates and the litopterns occupied ungulate ecological niches and had many strange forms, like Macrauchenia, a litoptern with a small proboscis.
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