El Salvador 1979
"Prehistoric Fauna from El Salvador"
On September 7th
, 1979, the Post of El Salvador issued a set of 6 stamps
"Prehistoric Fauna from El Salvador",
dedicated to prehistoric mammals that lived on the territory of the country during
the Cenozoic Era.
Three stamps of the set have land mail, three other airmail rate.
The set of stamps represents a new (in 1979) exhibit of "Prehistoric Life" in the Natural History Museum
of El Salvador in San Salvador.
David J. Guzmán on stamp of El Salvador 1983,
MiNr.: 1479, Scott: 973.
The Natural History Museum of El Salvador (MUHNES) was established in 1976.
The museum has three permanent exhibition rooms: "Rocks and Minerals", "Paleontology" and "Ecosystem".
The Hall of Paleontology: shows the remains of creatures that lived in El Salvador 10 million years ago.
The exhibition includes:
a skull replica of a saber-toothed tiger,
mastodon molars as well as impressions of fish, frogs and leaves found on sedimentary rocks from at the
province of San Vicente.
Also a mastodon molar found by David J. Guzmán, at Ilobasco, province of Cabañas.
No fossils of Dinosaurs have been found in El Salvador.
During the Mesozoic, this area was a marine area and the fossils found here include corals, algae, crabs, etc.
The Natural History Museum of El Salvador had done an effort in order to catalogue the collection of prehistoric
fauna and flora.
The first excavation of fossils in El Salvador were made in early 1900 by scientists David J. Guzman and Jorge Larde.
In their papers, they make references to some sites where they found fossils.
In 1942, a paleontologist who studied Salvadorean prehistoric mammals, Dr. R. A.
Stirton discovered seven extinct mammals that lived here.
During the 70's, a paleontologist named Steve Perrigo arrived at the Servicio de Parques Nacionales
and Natural History Museum.
He oversaw excavations at many sites which helped him confirm the variety of animals of Pleistocene age in
Central America (the Pleistocene is the epoch of the Cenozoic era before the present Holocene epoch).
In that period, the North and South of this continent were connected by Central America and intercontinental
migration of animals was possible.
("Welded Beast") is an extinct genus of proboscid which evolved in the Early Miocene of
North America from 13.6503.6 Ma, living about 10 million years.
Comphotherium on stamp of El Salvador 1979,
MiNr.: 1289, Scott: 911.
Specimen of Gomphotherium productum at the AMNH
This genus emigrated into Asia, Europe and Africa after a drop in sea level
(probably during the Tortonian age) allowed them to cross over.
It survived into the Pliocene, and its remains have been found in several locations
around the world, including the eastern region of El Salvador.
stood around 3 metres high, and bore a strong resemblance
to a modern elephant.
However, it had four tusks, two on the upper jaw and two on the elongated lower jaw.
The lower tusks are parallel and shaped like a shovel and were probably used for
digging up food from mud. Unlike modern elephants, the upper tusks were covered by
a layer of enamel.
Compared to elephants, the skull was more elongated and low, indicating that the
animal had a short trunk, rather like a tapir's.
These animals probably lived in swamps or near lakes, using their tusks to dig or
scrape up aquatic vegetation.
In comparison to earlier proboscids, Gomphotherium
had far fewer molars;
the remaining ones had high ridges to expand their grinding surface.
inhabited dry wooded regions near lakes.
often called a saber-toothed cat or incorrectly a saber-toothed
tiger, is an extinct genus of machairodonts. This saber-toothed cat was endemic to
Smilodon on stamp of El Salvador 1979"
MiNr.: 1290, Scott: 912.
Smilodon fatalis fossil at the National Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC
North America and South America, living from near the beginning through the
very end of the Pleistocene epoch (2.5 mya to 10,000 years ago). A fully-grown Smilodon weighed
approximately 55 kg to 470 kg, depending on species. It had a short tail,
powerful legs, muscular neck and long canines. Smilodon was more
robustly built than any modern cat, comparable to a bear. The lumbar
region of the back was proportionally short, and the lower limbs were
shortened relative to the upper limbs in comparison with modern
pantherine cats, suggesting that Smilodon was not built for speed.
is an extinct mammal of the late Pliocene and Pleistocene epochs about
2.6 million to 16,500 years ago.
Toxodon on stamp of El Salvador 1979
MiNr.: 1291, Scott: 913
Charles Darwin and Toxodon skull on
stamp of Portugal 2009,
MiNr.: 3388, Scott: 3094.
Skeleton of Toxodon in Buenos Aires Nnatural History Museum.
It was indigenous to South America, and
was probably the most common large-hoofed mammal in South America at the time of its
existence. Charles Darwin was one of the first
to collect Toxodon fossils, after paying 18 pence for a T. platensis
skull from a farmer in Uruguay.
In "The Voyage of the Beagle",
"November 26th - I set out on my return in a direct line for Monte Video.
Having heard of some giant's bones at a neighbouring farmhouse on the Sarandis,
a small stream entering the Rio Negro, I rode there accompanied by my host, and
purchased for the value of eighteen pence the head of an animal equaling in size
that of the hippopotamus.
Mr Owen in a paper read before the Geological Society, has called this very extraordinary
animal, Toxodon, from the curvature of its teeth.
Since Darwin discovered that the fossils of similar mammals of South America were
different than those in Europe, he invoked many debates about the evolution and natural
selection of animals.
Toxodon was about 2.7 metres in body length, and about 1.5 metres high at the shoulder
and resembled a heavy rhinoceros, with a short and vaguely hippopotamus-like head.
Because of the position of its nasal openings, it is believed that Toxodon had a
It had a massive skeleton, which suggests that it supported a large muscular body.
It had short stout legs with three functional toes, with most of
the body weight being borne by the central toe.
The Columbian mammoth
) is an extinct
species of elephant of the Quaternary period that appeared in North America (in the present
Columbian mammoth on stamp of El Salvador 1979
MiNr.: 1292, Scott: C458
Columbian mammoth in the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits, Los Angeles
United States and as far south as Nicaragua and Honduras) during the late Pleistocene.
Fossils of Columbian mammoth found in eastern country zone of El Salvador.
The Columbian mammoth was one of the last members of the American megafauna to go
extinct, with the date of disappearance generally set at approximately 12,500 years ago.
The Columbian mammoth was one of the largest of the mammoth species and also one of
the largest elephants to have ever lived, measuring 4 metres (13 ft) tall and weighing
up to 10 metric tons (11 short tons).
It was 10.7 feet (3.3 m) long at the shoulder, and had a head that accounted for
12 to 25 percent of its body weight.
It had impressive, spiraled tusks which typically extended to 6.5 feet (2.0 m).
Fossils of Columbian mammoth found in eastern country zone of El Salvador It was a herbivore, with a diet
consisting of varied plant life ranging from grasses to conifers.
It is also theorized that the Columbian mammoth ate the giant fruits of North
America such as the Osage-orange, Kentucky coffee and honey locust as
there was no other large herbivore in North America that could ingest these fruits.
(Panamerican Ground Sloth) is an
extinct genus of actively mobile ground sloth of the family Megatheriidae
endemic to North America and South America during the Pleistocene epoch.
Eremotherium on stamp of El Salvador 1979,
MiNr.: 1293, Scott: 459.
||Skeleton of Eremotherium at the Houston Museum of Natural
Science (HMNS), Texas, USA.
Image credit: Wikipedia
Megatherium on stamp of Argentina 2001,
MiNr.: 2642, Scott: 2144a.
This genus lived from approximately 1.8 million to 11,000 years ago.
Fossils of this group have been found in many countries including El Salvador.
One specimen from El Salvador is 7.6 meters tall - the tallest individual described
from Central America!
was widespread in tropical and subtropical lowlands and lived
there in partly open and closed landscapes, while its close relative Megatherium
lived in more temperate climes of South America.
Both genera reached the size of today's elephants and were among the largest mammals
in the Americas.
Characteristic of Eremotherium
was its robust physique with comparatively
long limbs and front and hind feet especially for later representatives- three fingers.
However, the skull is relatively gracile.
Like today's sloths, Eremotherium
was purely herbivorous and was probably
a mixed feeder that dined on leaves and grasses.
was a generalist that could adapt its diet to the respective
local and climatic conditions of many regions.
Eremotherium is among the most common mammals found in Pliocene to early
Holocene sites across tropical and equatorial regions of Central and South America.
It is known not only from El Salvador, but also from
Colombia to to
Guyana and Venezuela on the Caribbean coast
and along the Pacific coast as far as northern
In North America, fossils of Eremotherium being found as far north as
South Carolina in the United States.
Only two valid species are known, Eremotherium laurillardi
Eremotherium eomigrans, the former was named by prolific
Danish paleontologist Peter Lund
in 1842 based on a
tooth of a juvenile individual that had been collected from Pleistocene deposits
in caves in
alongside fossils of thousands of
Borophagus on stamp of El Salvador 1979
MiNr.: 1294, Scott: C460
Lund originally named it as a species of its relative Megatherium laurillardi
though Austrian paleontologist Franz Spillman in 1948 created the genus name
Eremotherium after noticing its distinctness from other megatheriids.
("gluttonous eater") is an extinct genus of
the subfamily Borophaginae, a group of canids endemic to
North America from the early Miocene epoch through the Zanclean stage of the
Pliocene epoch (23.3 to 3.6 mya).
Borophagus, like other borophagines, are loosely known as "bone-crushing" or "hyena-like" dogs.
Though not the most massive borophagine by size or weight, it had a more highly-evolved capacity to
crunch bone than earlier, larger genera such as Epicyon, which seems to
be an evolutionary trend of the group (Turner, 2004).
During the Pliocene epoch, Borophagus began being displaced by Canis genera such
as Canis edwardii and later by Canis dirus.
Products and associated philatelic items
Many thanks to Dr. Peter Voice, PhD Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences,
Western Michigan University, USA, for review draft page of the article and his very valuable comments.
Many thanks to fellow collector Peter Brandhuber from Germany and Dr. Jon Noad from Canada
for their help finding some information about these stamps, and scans of some philatelic items from their collections.