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Cenozoic Mammals and Climate Change: The Contrast between Coarse-Scale versus High-Resolution Studies Explained by Species Sorting

Department of Vertebrate Paleontology, Natural History Museum, 900 Exposition Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90041, USA
Geosciences 2012, 2(2), 25-41; https://doi.org/10.3390/geosciences2020025
Received: 9 March 2012 / Revised: 29 March 2012 / Accepted: 9 April 2012 / Published: 13 April 2012
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Paleontology and Geo/Biological Evolution)
Many paleontologists have noticed the broadly similar patterns between the changes in Cenozoic mammalian diversity and taxonomic dominance and climate changes. Yet detailed studies of fossil population samples with fine-scale temporal resolution during episodes of climate change like the Eocene-Oligocene transition in the White River Group, and the late Pleistocene at Rancho La Brea tar pits, demonstrates that most fossil mammal species are static and show no significant microevolutionary response to major climate changes. This mismatch between patterns seems best explained by species sorting. As the punctuated equilibrium model demonstrated, over long time spans most fossil species are stable and do not respond to climate change. Instead, change occurs at the next hierarchical level, with species sorting adding and subtracting to the total diversity pattern revealed by coarse-scale taxon counting, apparently responding to longer-term changes in climate as revealed by proxies like the oxygen isotope record. View Full-Text
Keywords: evolution; Cenozoic; mammals; birds; climate change; stasis; punctuated equilibrium; species sorting evolution; Cenozoic; mammals; birds; climate change; stasis; punctuated equilibrium; species sorting
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Prothero, D. Cenozoic Mammals and Climate Change: The Contrast between Coarse-Scale versus High-Resolution Studies Explained by Species Sorting. Geosciences 2012, 2, 25-41.

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