Navigation Links
Latitude and rain dictated where species lived

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] Aggregating nearly the entire landmass of Earth, Pangaea was a continent the likes our planet has not seen for the last 200 million years. Its size meant there was a lot of space for animals to roam, for there were few geographical barriers, such as mountains or ice caps, to contain them.

Yet, strangely, animals confined themselves. Studying a transect of Pangaea stretching from about three degrees south to 26 degrees north (a long swath in the center of the continent covering tropical and semiarid temperate zones), a team of scientists led by Jessica Whiteside at Brown University has determined that reptiles, represented by a species called procolophonids, lived in one area, while mammals, represented by a precursor species called traversodont cynodonts, lived in another. Though similar in many ways, their paths evidently did not cross.

"We're answering a question that goes back to Darwin's time," said Whiteside, assistant professor of geological sciences at Brown, who studies ancient climates. "What controls where organisms live? The two main constraints are geography and climate."

Turning to climate, the frequency of rainfall along lines of latitude directly influenced where animals lived, the scientists write in a paper published this week in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In the tropical zone where the mammal-relative traversodont cynodonts lived, monsoon-like rains fell twice a year. But farther north on Pangaea, in the temperate regions where the procolophonids predominated, major rains occurred only once a year. It was the difference in the precipitation, the researchers conclude, that sorted the mammals' range from that of the reptiles.

The scientists focused on an important physiological difference between the two: how they excrete. Mammals lose water when they excrete and need to replenish what they lose. Reptiles (and birds) get rid of bodily waste in the form of uric acid in a solid or semisolid form that contains very little water.

On Pangaea, the mammals needed a water-rich area, so the availability of water played a decisive role in determining where they lived. "It's interesting that something as basic as how the body deals with waste can restrict the movement of an entire group," Whiteside said.

In water-limited areas, "the reptiles had a competitive advantage over mammals," Whiteside said. She thinks the reptiles didn't migrate into the equatorial regions because they already had found their niche.

The researchers compiled a climate record for Pangaea during the late Triassic period, from 234 million years ago to 209 million years ago, using samples collected from lakes and ancient rift basins stretching from modern-day Georgia to Nova Scotia. Pangaea was a hothouse then: Temperatures were about 20 degrees Celsius hotter in the summer, and atmospheric carbon dioxide was five to 20 times greater than today. Yet there were regional differences, including rainfall amounts.

The researchers base the rainfall gap on variations in the Earth's precession, or the wobble on its axis, coupled with the eccentricity cycle, based on the Earth's orbital position to the sun. Together, these Milankovitch cycles influence how much sunlight, or energy, reaches different areas of the planet. During the late Triassic, the equatorial regions received more sunlight, thus more energy to generate more frequent rainfall. The higher latitudes, with less total sunlight, experienced less rain.

The research is important because climate change projections shows areas that would receive less precipitation, which could put mammals there under stress.

"There is evidence that climate change over the last 100 years has already changed the distribution of mammal species," said Danielle Grogan, a graduate student in Whiteside's research group. "Our study can help us predict negative climate effects on mammals in the future."


Contact: Richard Lewis
Brown University

Related biology news :

1. Evidence is weak for tropical rainforest 65 million years ago in Africas low-latitudes
2. Better food makes high-latitude animals bigger
3. Iron and biological production in the high-latitude North Atlantic
4. Earths biodiversity: What do we know and where are we headed?
5. Water, water, everywhere… but is it safe to drink?
6. Where did flowers come from?
7. Water, water everywhere focus of new sustainability project
8. Where unconscious memories form
9. Where did you get those eyes and that brain?
10. Tuning into cell signals that tell where sensory organs will form inside the ear
11. Where do the drugs go?
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
Latitude and rain dictated where species lived
(Date:5/23/2017)... GENOA, Italy , May 23, 2017  Hunova, the first robotic ... and trunk, has been officially launched in Genoa, Italy ... Europe and the USA . The ... launched on the market by the IIT spin-off Movendo Technology thanks to ... view the Multimedia News Release, please click: ...
(Date:4/19/2017)... The global military biometrics market ... by the presence of several large global players. The ... major players - 3M Cogent, NEC Corporation, M2SYS Technology, ... 61% of the global military biometric market in 2016. ... military biometrics market boast global presence, which has catapulted ...
(Date:4/11/2017)... 11, 2017 Crossmatch®, a globally-recognized leader ... today announced that it has been awarded a ... Activity (IARPA) to develop next-generation Presentation Attack Detection ... "Innovation has been a driving force within Crossmatch ... allow us to innovate and develop new technologies ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/12/2017)... ca (PRWEB) , ... October 12, 2017 , ... ... the Surgical Wound Market with the addition of its newest module, US Hemostats ... $1.2B market for thrombin hemostats, absorbable hemostats, fibrin sealants, synthetic sealants and biologic ...
(Date:10/11/2017)... ... October 11, 2017 , ... Personal eye wash is a basic first aid supply for ... time. So which eye do you rinse first if a dangerous substance enters both eyes? ... Eye Wash with its unique dual eye piece. , “Whether its dirt and debris, ...
(Date:10/11/2017)... ... October 11, 2017 , ... Disappearing forests and increased emissions are ... 5.5 million people each year. Especially those living in larger cities are affected by ... in one of the most pollution-affected countries globally - decided to take action. , ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... Philadelphia, PA (PRWEB) , ... October 10, 2017 ... ... University City Science Center’s FirstHand program has won a US2020 STEM Mentoring Award. ... accept the award for Excellence in Volunteer Experience from US2020. , US2020’s mission ...
Breaking Biology Technology: