The overwhelming majority of previous climate-change studies on the 400,000-year transition from the Eocene to the Oligocene epochs, about 33.5 million years ago, focus on marine environments, but University of Florida vertebrate paleontologist Bruce MacFadden and his colleagues turned their attention to fossils from the Great Plains.
The study will be published online Feb. 7 in the journal Nature and will appear in the Feb. 8 print edition.
"If a temperature change of this magnitude occurred today, Florida would have weather similar to Washington, D.C., or even farther north," said MacFadden, a curator at the Florida Museum of Natural History.
The Eocene-to-Oligocene transition is known in the fossil record as the Grande Coupure, the "Big Cut" in French, because it marks a massive extinction of life in both marine and land environments. Scientists believe the drop in temperature was likely due to changes in oceanic currents, MacFadden said.
"Fossil mammals are archives of ancient information," MacFadden said. "Their teeth are like little time capsules that allow us to analyze chemicals captured millions of years ago within the animals' skeletons."
MacFadden said 49 of the 68 fossil teeth analyzed came from the Florida Museum's vertebrate paleontology collection. Researchers analyzed oxygen and carbon isotopes in the preserved teeth and bones of primitive fossil horses and a primitive cloven-hoofed mammal called an oreodont. Isotopes are atoms of naturally occurring elements, characterized by varying numbers of neutrons but constant numbers of protons. Oxygen isotopes act as thermometers, telling scientists at what temperature they were formed; and carbon isotopes act as barometers, revealing relative humidity.
"A combined analysis of the isotope composition of bones and teeth is a new approach to studying this boundary in time," said Alessandro Zanazzi, a doctoral student in geology at the University of South Carolina and lead author of the paper. "Tooth enamel has very low porosity and low organic matter, so it maintains the isotopic composition of when it was formed."
Donald R. Prothero, a professor of geology at Occidental College and an expert on the Eocene-to-Oligocene transition, said, "We have long known that there were some dramatic climatic changes in the earliest Oligocene based on the record of marine plankton and isotopes. But we didn't know how much change there was in degrees, although the plant changes suggested it was indeed about 15 degrees."
Prothero also said gaps in the fossil record from Nebraska may have prevented researchers from obtaining detailed temperature data, and he hopes further studies will be completed at other sites such as Wyoming.
Bruce MacFadden | EurekAlert!
Rutgers-led innovation could spur faster, cheaper, nano-based manufacturing
14.02.2018 | Rutgers University
New study from the University of Halle: How climate change alters plant growth
12.01.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg
Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...
On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...
The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...
At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.
When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...
At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.
Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...
16.03.2018 | Event News
13.03.2018 | Event News
08.03.2018 | Event News
16.03.2018 | Earth Sciences
16.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
16.03.2018 | Life Sciences