Navigation Links
Climate-caused biodiversity booms and busts in ancient plants and mammals

ANN ARBOR, Mich.---A period of global warming from 53 million to 47 million years ago strongly influenced plants and animals, spurring a biodiversity boom in western North America, researchers from three research museums report in a paper published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Today, the middle of Wyoming is a vast desert, and a few antelope and deer are all you see," said lead author Michael Woodburne, honorary curator of geology at the Museum of Northern Arizona. "But 50 million years ago, when temperatures were at their highest, that area was a tropical rainforest teeming with lemur-like primates, small dawn horses and a number of small forest rodents and other mammals. In fact, there were more species of mammals living in the western part of North America at that time than at any other time."

Woodburne and co-authors Gregg Gunnell of the University of Michigan Museum of Paleontology and Richard Stucky of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science examined the records of ancient temperatures and information on the fossil plants and mammals that inhabited North America during the Eocene epoch and found that diversity increased and declined with rising and falling temperatures.

The Eocene began about 56 million years ago with a short period of increased warming, when many modern groups of mammals first appeared in North America, probably by emigrating from other areas. The period the researchers studied, called the Early Eocene Climatic Optimum (EECO), began about three million years later and included a long-term temperature increase coupled with a long-term rise in diversity.

During that time, as mean annual temperature warmed from about 60 degrees Fahrenheit to 73 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celsius to 23 degrees Celsius), vegetation changed, with many new plant forms appearing, and mammal diversity increased from 90 genera to an all-time high of 104 genera, the researchers found.

"This is also the part of the Eocene when we see the most new appearances of mammals due to evolutionary innovation, rather than immigration," said Stucky, who is curator of paleoecology and evolution at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. Some 30 new rodents, carnivores, primates and artiodactyls (the group that includes sheep, goats, camels, pigs, cows, deer, giraffes and antelopes, among others) appeared on the scene.

But then, as temperatures declined again, the number of mammal genera dropped to a low of 84, with the complete loss of many mammalian groups that previously were well represented. Lower temperatures and a dryer climate continued to influence mammal and plant evolution as savanna habitats began to emerge.

Until this research, the consensus among paleontologists who study North American vertebrates was that climate played only a background role in supporting the evolution of mammals during the Paleocene and Eocene (65 million to 35 million years ago) and that only at the end of the Eocene, when Antarctic glaciations began, did Earth's climate deteriorate enough to cause observable changes in land mammal diversity.

"Our paper documents the fact that global change affected plants and animals on a wide scale," said Gunnell, an associate research scientist and vertebrate collection coordinator at the U-M Museum of Paleontology. "Some plants and animals flourished while others suffered."

When considering today's global warming, Woodburne said, "The question is, on which side of this picture will mankind be found?"


Contact: Nancy Ross-Flanigan
University of Michigan

Related biology news :

1. New theory gives more precise estimates of large-scale biodiversity
2. Academy Library accepted to prestigious Biodiversity Heritage Library
3. Scorpion biodiversity
4. K-State biologist collaborating with researchers in Africa on grassland sustainability, biodiversity
5. Threats to biodiversity rise in the worlds Mediterranean-climate regions
6. Biodiversity itself begets a species cascade, researchers say
7. The global impact of climate change on biodiversity
8. Alpine rivers hold important clues for preserving biodiversity and coping with climate change
9. Networks of small habitat patches can preserve urban biodiversity
10. Marine invasive species advance 50 km per decade, World Conference on Marine Biodiversity told
11. Marine invasive species advance 50km per decade, World Conference on Marine Biodiversity told
Post Your Comments:
(Date:6/21/2016)... , June 21, 2016 NuData ... the new role of principal product architect and ... the director of customer development. Both will report ... technical officer. The moves reflect NuData,s strategic growth ... response to high customer demand and customer focus ...
(Date:6/9/2016)... 9, 2016  Perkotek an innovation leader in attendance control systems is proud to ... hours, for employers to make sure the right employees are actually signing in, and ... ... ... ...
(Date:6/2/2016)... 2016 The Department of Transport Management ... 44 million US Dollar project, for the , ... Personalization, Enrolment, and IT Infrastructure , to ... and implementation of Identity Management Solutions. Numerous renowned international vendors ... Decatur was selected for the most compliant and ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... 23, 2016 Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital ... Sports Association to serve as their official health ... Methodist Willowbrook will provide sponsorship support, athletic training ... association coaches, volunteers, athletes and families. ... Sports Association and to bring Houston Methodist quality ...
(Date:6/23/2016)...  The Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) is pleased to announce 24 ... for prostate cancer. Members of the Class of 2016 were selected from a ... Read More About the Class of 2016 PCF Young Investigators ... ... ...
(Date:6/23/2016)...   EpiBiome , a precision microbiome engineering company, ... financing from Silicon Valley Bank (SVB). The financing will ... its drug development efforts, as well as purchase additional ... has been an incredible strategic partner to us – ... would provide," said Dr. Aeron Tynes Hammack , ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... STACS DNA Inc., the sample ... the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory, has joined STACS DNA as a Field Application Specialist. ... said Jocelyn Tremblay, President and COO of STACS DNA. “In further expanding our capacity ...
Breaking Biology Technology: