Paleontologists have documented how dramatic shifts in climate have led to dramatic shifts in evolution.
One such event, the Grande Coupure, was a wipeout of many European mammal species 33.9 million years ago when global temperatures and precipitation declined sharply. What has been puzzling is that during the same transition between the Eocene and Oligocene periods, North American mammals fared much better.
The rise of the Rockies extended from British Columbia to Nevada in three phases between 56 and 23 million years ago. The rising mountains dried out the interior, preparing mammals for a major climate change event 34 million years ago, researchers say. European mammals were not so prepared.
Courtesy of Eronen et. al.
A new study explains why: the rise of the Rocky Mountains, already underway for millions of years, had predisposed populations to adapt to a cold, dry world.
'Regional tectonically driven surface uplift resulted in large-scale reorganization of precipitation patterns, and our data show that the mammalian faunas adapted to these changes,' write the study authors, including Christine Janis, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Brown University, in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 'We suggest that the late Eocene mammalian faunas of North America were already 'pre-adapted' to the colder and drier global conditions that followed the EO climatic cooling.'
The data in the study led by Jussi Eronen of the Senckenberg Research Institutes in Germany and the University of Helsinki in Finland, come from the authors' analysis of the fossil record of the two continents, combined with previous oxygen isotope data that reveal precipitation patterns, and tectonic models that show the growth of the Rocky Mountains. Specifically, the study shows that the rise of the range spread south in three phases from Canada starting more than 50 million years ago, down through Idaho, and finally into Nevada by 23 million years ago.
In the meantime, fossil mammal data show, precipitation in the interior regions dropped, and major shifts in mammal populations, such as an almost complete loss of primates, took place. Estimated rainfall based on plant fossils in Wyoming, for example, dropped from about 1,200 millimeters a year 56 million years ago to only 750 millimeters a year about 49 million years ago.
But across the region these correlated shifts occurred over tens of millions of years, leaving a well-adapted mix of mammals behind by the time of the Grand Coupure 34 million years ago.
In Europe, meanwhile, tectonic developments weren't a major factor driving local climate. When the global climate change happened, that continent's mammals were evolutionary sitting ducks. Other studies have already suggested that Europe's mammals were largely overrun and outcompeted by Asian mammals that were already living in colder and drier conditions.
Eronen said the findings should elevate the importance of collaboration across disciplines, for instance by integrating geoscience with paleontology, in the analysis of broad evolutionary patterns.
'Our results highlight the importance of regional tectonic and surface uplift processes on the evolution of mammalian faunas,' they wrote.
In addition to Eronen and Janis, the paper's other authors are C. Page Chamberlain of Stanford University and Andreas Mulch of the Senckenberg Institutes and Goethe University in Germany.
David Orenstein | EurekAlert!
Multi-institutional collaboration uncovers how molecular machines assemble
02.12.2016 | Salk Institute
Fertilized egg cells trigger and monitor loss of sperm’s epigenetic memory
02.12.2016 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy