Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Paleo study shows how elevation may affect evolution

03.06.2015

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!

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht The irresistible fragrance of dying vinegar flies
16.08.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für chemische Ökologie

nachricht How protein islands form
15.08.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

Im Focus: Scientists improve forecast of increasing hazard on Ecuadorian volcano

Researchers from the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, the Italian Space Agency (ASI), and the Instituto Geofisico--Escuela Politecnica Nacional (IGEPN) of Ecuador, showed an increasing volcanic danger on Cotopaxi in Ecuador using a powerful technique known as Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR).

The Andes region in which Cotopaxi volcano is located is known to contain some of the world's most serious volcanic hazard. A mid- to large-size eruption has...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New thruster design increases efficiency for future spaceflight

16.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Transporting spin: A graphene and boron nitride heterostructure creates large spin signals

16.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

A new method for the 3-D printing of living tissues

16.08.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>