The exceedingly rich middle Pleistocene mammalian fauna from the classic Ensenadan Tarija basin in southern Bolivia contains a diversity of medium to large-bodied herbivores consisting of both endemic (†Toxodontia, †Litopterna, Xenarthra) and immigrant (Rodentia, Proboscidea, Perissodactyla, and Artiodactyla) taxa. In order to characterize feeding ecology and niche differences, a suite of morphological characters was measured for each of 13 species of herbivorous mammals from the Pleistocene of Tarija; these were combined with carbon isotopic results from tooth enamel. (The Xenarthra were excluded from this study because they lack tooth enamel.)
Several different bivariate and multivariate combinations of characters can be used to characterize the feeding adaptations, niches, and guild composition of the Tarija mammalian herbivores. During the Pleistocene the browsing guild in the Tarija basin is interpreted to include the tapir (Tapirus tarijensis), extinct llama (Palaeolama weddelli), peccary (Tayassu sp.), and deer (Hippocamelus sp.). The mixed-feeding guild included two horse species (Hippidion principale and Onohippidium devillei), litoptern (Macrauchenia patachonica), and capybara (Neochoerus tarijensis). The grazing guild included the numerically dominant horse (Equus insulatus), two lamine species (Lama angustimaxilla and cf. Vicugna, provicugna), notoungulate (Toxodon platensis), and gomphothere proboscidean (Cuvieronius hyodon). The grazing guild has the widest range of body sizes relative to the two other guilds. Closely related sympatric species within the Equidae and Camelidae differentiate their niches from one another using a combination of body size, feeding ecology, and probably local habitat. Most of the paleoecological reconstructions resulting from this combined morphological and isotopic analysis corroborate previous studies based primarily on morphology; there are, however, some notable surprises.