Fossil horses show climate change 33 million years ago

This video is called Life in Cenozoic Times.

Reuters reports:

WASHINGTON – Details on the largest climate change since the age of dinosaurs come straight from the horse’s mouth, as equine teeth provide clues to how long, how cold and when the big chill was, scientists reported Wednesday.

Earth’s temperature dropped by 15 degrees F over a period of 400,000 years some 33.5 million years ago, the researchers said in the current edition of the journal Nature. …

Paleontologists have known for more than a century that many species went extinct at the transition between the Eocene and Oligocene, based on the fossil record before and after the shift.

However, they lacked the analytic tools to determine how much temperature change there was over how long a period, and exactly when it occurred.

Fossil research showed that creatures that might be at home in the tropics, like warm-loving crocodilians, roamed what is now Nebraska on the American Great Plains before the temperature transition.

After the transition, they were gone.

Scientists believe changes in ocean currents were to blame for the shift.

To figure out the details of what French researchers dubbed Grande Coupure — “big cut” — MacFadden and his co-authors examined the preserved teeth and bones of fossil horses and another cloven-hoofed mammal called an oreodont.

See also here.

In a study, (see video) researchers from eight institutions, led by scientists from the University of Florida and University of Nebraska, followed the evolution of the earliest horses about 56 million years ago and found a correlation between temperature and body size in mammals. They saw that as temperatures increased, the animals’ sizes decreased.

Ice during the Oligocene: here.

Pleistocene Horses in the New World: here.

A giant rhinocerotoid (Mammalia, Perissodactyla) from the Late Oligocene of north-central Anatolia (Turkey): here.

Chalicotheres were a group of odd-toed ungulates, or perissodactyls, related to horses, tapirs and rhinos. But unlike their modern relatives, many species of chalicothere had long, curved claws on their forelimbs and probably knuckle-walked like gorillas and anteaters do today: here.

8 thoughts on “Fossil horses show climate change 33 million years ago

  1. PALEONTOLOGY PRIZE: Ancient oreodont quite a find for N.M. location

    03/09/2008 01:58:37 PM EDT
    Albuquerque Journal (NM) (KRT)

    Mar. 9–The mouth grinned out of the canyon wall at Dave Love, a vision from the distant past. Love was on a geologic scouting expedition when he spotted it, 8 feet up from the canyon floor, embedded in a layer of sandstone.

    “Lo and behold, there was this nice set of teeth,” recalled Love, a geologist with the New Mexico Bureau of Geology.

    The teeth were attached to a jaw, which was attached to a skeleton, which drew a group of scientists back to the desert canyon March 4 for a little digging.

    The creature that drew all this fuss might not have been worthy of much note when it wandered an ancient proto-New Mexico. But, today, the rare find provides a window into a time when our modern landscape was just taking shape.

    The sheeplike creature, called an oreodont, made its living munching plants, explained Gary Morgan, a curator at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science.

    Morgan led the team that dug the fossil out of the canyon wall, bringing it back to the Museum of Natural History in Albuquerque for study.

    Love and two colleagues were scouting the area Feb. 22 for a geologic mapping project when they saw the fossil, embedded in the canyon wall east of the visitors’ center at Bosque del Apache, south of Socorro.

    The creature had been entombed in the rock since its death, more than 10 million years ago, according to Morgan.

    What we now call “New Mexico” was very different then. To the north, the Rocky Mountains had already risen, but state’s central mountain chain, from the Sandia Mountains south, was nowhere to be seen.

    More important for the shape of our landscape today, there was no Rio Grande. Instead, according to Love, there was a series of inland basins, with no river flowing to the sea.

    The oreodont — the name is derived from the words for “mountain” and “tooth,” though no one quite knows why — lived among a fauna very much like what you would see on the African savanna today — a grassland with clumps of trees along the river, according to Morgan.

    There were elephantlike creatures then, along with rhinos and eight different kinds of camels, he said.

    On first glance, the teeth embedded in the rock looked to Love like they belonged to a camel. But when Morgan arrived, it was immediately apparent they belonged instead to an oreodont.

    From a scientific perspective, that is a bonus, Morgan said. Camels are common in the area, but no one has ever found an oreodont there.

    “The rarer the animal,” Morgan said, “the more interesting to me.”


  2. Animal and plant evolution changes with new research

    * February 16th, 2011 6:13 am ET

    C4 grasses 4 million years older than previously thought

    University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Appalachian Laboratory researcher Dr.David Nelson and University of Illinois Professor Feng Sheng Hu published research in the journal Geology that indicates C4 type grasses were thriving in the early Oligocene period 14 million years earlier than previously thought. The research was reviewed at the Science Daily web site on February 15, 2011.

    C4 type grasses include food grasses like rice and corn as well as the majority of grasses that are being investigated as biofuel sources.

    The research has implications on the present likelihood of survival of food and fruiting grasses in the present global warming conditions. This research indicates a large majority of these plants may thrive in higher temperatures.

    Journal Reference:

    Michael A. Urban, David M. Nelson, Gonzalo Jiménez-Moreno, Jean-Jaques Châteauneuf, Ann Pearson, and Feng Sheng Hu. Isotopic evidence of C4 grasses in southwestern Europe during the Early Oligocene-Middle Miocene. Geology, DOI: 10.1130/G31117.1


  3. Pingback: Domesticated horses’ origin research | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  4. Pingback: Frozen cave lion cubs discovery in Siberia | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  5. Pingback: Fossil marsupials discovery in Bolivia | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  6. Pingback: Crocodilian fossils from Puerto Rico | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  7. Pingback: Ancient dolphin species discovery in Ecuador | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  8. Pingback: Neanderthal deer hunting, new research | Dear Kitty. Some blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.