Evolution and systematics

Fossils are known that date from the Oligocene of South America. The family Dasyproctidae belongs to the super-family Caviomorph of the suborder Hystricognathi. Caviomorphs probably evolved in Africa, and (along with ce-bid primates) crossed a then much-narrower Atlantic to South America in the late Eocene, where they diversified greatly. Many attained great size and occupied a number of ecological roles. Modern caviomorph diversity is but an echo of this. Of the two genera in the Dasyproctidae, the acouchis are considered to be the more primitive; they are smaller, have a longer tail, and exhibit simpler foraging patterns and social structure. The genus Dasyprocta has speciated widely in South America. In addition to the forest species, there are species in the open savanna-like habitat of the cerrado (D. azarae) and scrubby dry caatinga (D. prymnolopha).

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