Evidence suggests that some of the animals that are not endemic to the Caribbean islands were brought to the region from other parts of the Americas. The remains of species not naturally found in the region have been recovered in archeological sites, which proves that live animals or anatomical parts of animals were transported by various societies in the region.

One of the animal species brought to Puerto Rico was the hutia, a large rodent. Remains of this mammal dating to the year 2000 B.C. have been identified in archaeological sites of the Archaic culture. The animal’s scientific name is Isolodobon portoricencis, and it is endemic to the Dominican Republic. It was transported by sea to Puerto Rico as a food source.Archeologists have also identified the remains of canines in the Caribbean region. The oldest documented dogs in archeological finds in the Antilles were discovered in Puerto Rico. They date as far back as 200 B.C. and are associated with the Huecoid society’s Punta Candelero site. To date, it is not known for certain where the dogs in the Caribbean islands were brought from, but the absence of canines in northeastern South America at that time, as well as documentation of formal burials of canines on the islands, a practice documented in the Andean zone, appears to indicate that the animals were brought from the northwestern part of South America.

The origin of the guinea pigs documented in the Greater Antilles and on the island of Antigua has also been traced to the Andean region, where those rodents were domesticated and used for ritual purposes. Guinea pigs have not been found in the Lesser Antilles south of Antigua, which has led to the suggestion, among other possibilities, that the species was brought directly from northwestern South America to the Greater Antilles in late pre-colonial times.

There is also evidence that animal teeth, such as those of the peccary and the jaguar, were brought to the Caribbean. Fangs from these animals have been documented at La Hueca-Sorcé site, associated with the Huecoid culture, on Vieques. The fangs showed transverse incisions, which indicate that they were modified to be used as pendants.

Finally, representations of animals from beyond the Caribbean in the region’s indigenous iconography should also be mentioned. Among these are the representations of Andean condors, which have been found in Huecoid sites such as Punta Candelero in Humacao, Puerto Rico, and on the island of Vieques. The range of this bird of prey is limited to the western part of South America, which demonstrates the extent of the spheres of interaction among the former inhabitants of the Caribbean.

Author: Reniel Rodríguez Ramos
Published: December 16, 2011.

This post is also available in: Español


The Puerto Rico Endowment for the Humanities welcomes the constructive comments that the readers of the Encyclopedia of Puerto Rico want to make us. Of course, these comments are entirely the responsibility of their respective authors.