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Anthropogenic invaders: historical biogeography, current genetic status and distribution range of the “peludo” Chaetophractus villosus (Xenarthra) in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, southern South America

  • Sebastián Poljak ORCID logo EMAIL logo , Julieta Sánchez , Lucas Lanusse and Marta Susana Lizarralde
From the journal Mammalia


Chaetophractus villosus was once distributed from the south of Bolivia and Paraguay to the northwest of Patagonia, where the species survived in glacial refugia during Pleistocene. After the ice retreated, the species expanded its distribution further south reaching Chubut River. In the last two centuries, the species colonized the rest of Patagonia on both sides of the Andes and was introduced in Tierra del Fuego (TDF) in 1982, where it expanded its distribution range along 484 km2 until 2005. A single mitochondrial Control Region haplotype (HC) was described across Argentine Patagonia based on the low number of samples. This lack of variability was exceptional and impressive, taking into account that the northern neighboring areas of distribution are considered ancestral due to the haplotype richness. Here, we added new field and genetic data and compiled recent bibliography to update the biogeography and phylogeography of the species in southern South America. To explain the unprecedent lack of genetic variability, we discussed three main aspects: a historical biogeographic aspect related to the natural barriers for the species, a strong stochastic component, and the possible adaptive advantages of the only mitochondrial lineage detected, whose colonization and acclimatization to the new environment were mediated by man. We also estimated that the current distribution range in TDF is about 8527 km2.


We would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers for their comments that improved the manuscript, Dr. Never Bonino, Lic. Jorge Gallo, and Mr. Ramiro López for providing samples, Julio Escobar for field assistance, Dra. Viviana Confalonieri for critical reading of the manuscript and Professor Pedro Pascale for the help in the English language. This work was partially supported by Proyecto de Investigación Plurianual of Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas CONICET (grant PIP 2012-2014 GI no.: 11220110100233). The funding source had no involvement in the conduct of the research and preparation of the article.

  1. Declarations of interest: None.


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Supplementary Material

The online version of this article offers supplementary material (

Received: 2019-06-19
Accepted: 2020-01-30
Published Online: 2020-03-26
Published in Print: 2020-09-25

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