National Academies Press: OpenBook

Effects of Past Global Change on Life (1995)

Chapter: RESULTS

« Previous: Late Pliocene and Pleistocene: Further Continentality and Provincialism
Suggested Citation:"RESULTS." National Research Council. 1995. Effects of Past Global Change on Life. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4762.
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Page 195
Suggested Citation:"RESULTS." National Research Council. 1995. Effects of Past Global Change on Life. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4762.
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Page 196

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GLOBAL CLIMATIC INFLUENCE ON CENOZOIC LAND MAMMAL FAUNAS 195 a number of "holdover taxa"—such as the peccary, Mylohyus; the protoceratid, Kyptoceras; and the three-toed horse, Cormohipparion—which were already extinct in the midcontinent. The ecological balance of these holdovers suggests persistence of seasonal savannas and extensive mesophytic forests in warmer, more productive settings than in the High Plains (Robertson, 1976; Webb, 1978; Hulbert, 1987). In general, the Late Pliocene array of biomes in North America approximated the degree of provincialism seen at present, although the extremes of freezing winters and arid deserts were absent. In the Late Pliocene (Blancan 2) the first large wave of immigrants from South America appeared, including glyptodonts, chlamytheres, armadillos, ground sloths, capybaras, and porcupines. At the same time, another large wave of immigrants came from Asia; among them were the spectacled bear (Tremarctos) and several rodents (Synaptomys, Pliopotamys, and Mictomys) (Lundelius et al., 1987). This final immigration episode of the Tertiary coincided with expansion of the Bering bridge. It clearly correlates with the onset of Northern Hemisphere glaciation, sea-level lowering, and evidence of pre-Nebraskan till in western Iowa (Lundelius et al., 1987; Repenning, 1987). The late Hemphillian and early Blancan immigration episodes just considered adumbrate an increasingly active series of Quaternary immigration episodes. High latitude Quaternary studies on both sides of the Beringia land bridge record trends among microtine rodents, as well as many large mammals, such as mammoths and musk oxen, toward steppe-tundra adaptations (Sher, 1974; Repenning, 1985; Herman, 1989). The complex pattern of faunal dynamics among Quaternary mammals is well summarized by Tedford et al. (1987, p. 192): "The accelerating pace of immigration from Hemphillian into Pleistocene time reflects the availability of dispersal routes to North America and increasing environmental instability, particularly at high latitudes, that provided the goad for the movement of mammals." RESULTS We analyzed the record of immigrations in successive North American land mammal faunas, as a possible signal of major environmental changes in the history of that continent. We selected this continent because it has the most complete Cenozoic record of terrestrial mammalian history. We tallied the number of land mammal genera that apparently immigrated in each of 52 informal subdivisions of 19 land mammal ages following the biostratigraphic scheme presented in Woodburne (1987). In this review, we have not dealt with other diversity changes due to extinctions and endemic radiations. We found that the two largest episodes (Wasatchian 1 and Hemingfordian 1) involved 15 and 14 genera, respectively; five other episodes also involved nine or more genera (Table 11.1). We arbitrarily designate these seven largest as first-order immigration episodes. We categorize another cluster of seven episodes, consisting of five or seven genera each, as second- order episodes. All smaller counts were considered third-order or "background" immigration patterns. The numbers of genera in first-order and second-order episodes are documented in Table 11.1. The only third-order episodes we were able to tally accurately are the five from the Miocene. The genera counted in the seven first-order immigration episodes are listed in taxonomic order in Table 11.2. An unexpected result of this analysis is the paired pattern among six of the seven first-order immigration episodes. Except for the Duchesnean, each first-order episode occurs within about two million years of another first-order episode. The three pairs are Clarkforkian with Wasatchian, Hemingfordian 1 and 2, and Hemphillian 3 and Blancan 2. The first-order status of the Duchesnean immigration episode may be artifactual. This interval, and the preceding Uintan, span about 10 m.y., much of it represented by sparsely fossiliferous sediments. The nine immigrant genera recognized here are thought to be clustered in the late Duchesnean (Emry, 1981; Krishtalka et al., 1987), but this may well be an artifact of a relatively TABLE 11.1 Land Mammal Immigration Episodes Mammal Age Genera Age (Ma) BLANCAN 2 13 2.5 Blancan 1 7 4.5 HEMPHILLIAN 3 12 5.0 Hemphillian 2 7 7.0 Hemphillian 1 7 8.0 Clarendonian 3 10.0 Barstovian 3 2 12.0 Barstovian 2 3 14.5 Barstovian 1 2 16.0 HEMINGFORDIAN 2 10 18.0 HEMINGFORDIAN 1 14 20.0 Arikareean 2 6 21.0 Arikareean 1 4 23.0 DUCHESNEAN 9 39.5 Uintan 7 44.5 Bridgerian 6 49.5 WASATCHIAN 15 57.0 CLARKFORKIAN 9 58.5 Torrejonian 7 63.5 NOTE: First-order episodes in capital letters; second- and third order in lowercase.

GLOBAL CLIMATIC INFLUENCE ON CENOZOIC LAND MAMMAL FAUNAS 196 TABLE 11.2 First-Order Immigration Episodes of North American Land Mammal Genera Mammal Age Order Genera Clarkforkian (ca. 59 Ma) Cimolesta Apatemys Tillodontia Esthonyx Rodentia Paramys Microparamys Creodonta Palaeonictis Carnivora Uintacyon Pantodonta Coryphodon Dinocerata Prodinoceras Condylarthra Hyopsodus Wasatchian (ca. 57 Ma) Cimolestida Didelphodus Soricomorpha Macrocranion Scenopagus Primates Pelycodus Cantius Teilhardina Creodonta Prototomus Arfia Carnivora Miacis Vulpavus Mesonychia Pachyaena Perissodactyla Homogalax Hyracotherium Artiodactyla Diacodexis Bunophorous Duchesnean (ca. 39 Ma) Rodentia Ardinomys Creodonta Hyaeodnon Carnivora Nimravus Eusmilus Procynodictis Perissodactyla Amynodon Menodus Artiodactyla Bothriodon Elomeryx Hemingfordian 1 (ca. 20 Ma) Insectivora Antesorex Plesiosorex Lagomorpha Oreolagus Carnivora Amphicyon Amphictis Cephalogale Edaphocyon Potamotherium Phoberocyon Cynelos Perissodactyla Brachypotherium Artiodactyla Blastomeryx Paracosoryx Barbouromeryx

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What can we expect as global change progresses? Will there be thresholds that trigger sudden shifts in environmental conditions—or that cause catastrophic destruction of life?

Effects of Past Global Change on Life explores what earth scientists are learning about the impact of large-scale environmental changes on ancient life—and how these findings may help us resolve today's environmental controversies.

Leading authorities discuss historical climate trends and what can be learned from the mass extinctions and other critical periods about the rise and fall of plant and animal species in response to global change. The volume develops a picture of how environmental change has closed some evolutionary doors while opening others—including profound effects on the early members of the human family.

An expert panel offers specific recommendations on expanding research and improving investigative tools—and targets historical periods and geological and biological patterns with the most promise of shedding light on future developments.

This readable and informative book will be of special interest to professionals in the earth sciences and the environmental community as well as concerned policymakers.

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