A New Near-Shore Marine Fauna and Flora from the Early Neogene of Northwestern Venezuela

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A diverse near-shore marine fauna existed during the early Miocene in what is today an arid inland region about 90 km south of the Caribbean coast of northern Venezuela, a poorly known area geologically and paleontologically. The fossil locality consists of more than 100 m of section exposed in an area of about 1 km2. We report the discovery of 20 molluscan species, one crab (Portunus oblongus), at least three sharks (Hemipristis serra and Carcharhinus spp.), one turtle ("Podocnemis" venezuelensis), one crocodile (Crocodylidae), two whales (Odontoceti) and a three dimensional cast of the mesocarp or endocarp of a palm fruit. Several taxa are reported for the first time in Venezuela or in northern South America. The fauna indicates, or at least is consistent with, an early Miocene age for the locality, and a near-shore and shallow water marine depositional environment. We suggest that the earliest mammal previously reported from Venezuela, the pyrothere Proticia venezuelensis, was collected in Miocene rocks of the Castillo Formation instead of Eocene rocks of the Trujillo Formation.