Wednesday, 10 June 2015

How the Rockies prepared mammals for the cold

June 4, 2015

Chuck Bednar for – @BednarChuck

Nearly 34 million years ago, European mammals were wiped out en masse due to plummeting temperatures during an event known as the Grande Coupure, yet at this same time, their North American counterparts were largely unfazed. Why?

A team of researchers from the Senckenberg Research Institutes in Germany, the University of Helsinki in Finland and Brown University in Rhode Island found the reason for this phenomenon – the rise of the Rocky Mountains across western North America during this transitional period that took place between the Eocene and Oligocene periods.

As they reported in a study published Wednesday in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the authors analyzed the fossil record of both continents, as well as previous oxygen isotope data that had revealed precipitation patterns and tectonic models of the Rockies’ growth. They discovered that North American mammals survived due to adaptive change, driven by the mountains.

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