Fossil record disappears at different rates, study finds


Share post:

Statistical analysis by University of Wyoming researchers shows wide variation in the rates at which the bones of ancient animals in the Americas have been lost.

Fossil record disappears at different rates, study finds
Remains of a mammoth that was killed by humans near LaPrele Creek in 
Converse County, Wyo., about 13,000 years ago. New University of Wyoming 
research shows wide variation in the rates at which the bones of ancient animals
 in the Americas have been lost [Credit: Danny Walker,
Wyoming State Archaeology Office]

Considerably more of the fossil record of creatures such as mammoths, mastodons, camels, horses and ground sloths has been lost in what is now the continental United States and South America than in Alaska and areas near the Bering Strait. That variation complicates efforts to reconstruct the population sizes of those species across North and South America, conclude Professor Todd Surovell and graduate student Spencer Pelton in UW’s Department of Anthropology.

“While bone preservation in Arctic regions is aided by cold temperatures and the presence of permafrost, considerably more bone has been lost over time in regions farther south—in fact, at a faster rate than the sediments in which they were deposited have eroded,” Surovell says. “That means researchers must adjust for those differences as they estimate the numbers of these animals, many of which are now extinct, across the Americas.”

The research appears today in Biology Letters, a Royal Society journal that publishes short, highly innovative, cutting-edge research articles and opinion pieces accessible to scientists from across the biological sciences.

Surovell, whose past research has linked human hunting to the extinction of large mammals in the Americas, conducted the latest study by compiling radiocarbon dates of bones from animals of the Pleistocene era, which ended just under 12,000 years ago. He and Pelton also looked at the rates at which sedimentary deposits were lost over time.

While cautioning against applying their conclusions to the fossil record before or after the Pleistocene, the researchers suggest further research into the differences in the rates at which animal bones are lost from region to region.

Source: University of Wyoming [February 10, 2016]



Related articles

Deeper origin of gill evolution suggests ‘active lifestyle’ link in early vertebrates

A new study has revealed that gills originated much deeper in evolutionary history than previously believed. The findings...

Counting fish teeth reveals regulatory DNA changes behind rapid evolution, adaptation

Sticklebacks, the roaches of the fish world, are the ideal animal in which to study the genes that...

Estimating the size of animal populations from camera trap surveys

Camera traps are a useful means for researchers to observe the behaviour of animal populations in the wild...

Scientists make new discovery about bird evolution

In a new paper published in National Science Review, a team of scientists from the Institute of Vertebrate...

New excavations start at Troy with Turkish team

New term excavations in the 5,000-year-old ancient city of Troy, which is located within the borders of the...

Confucius depicted on ancient Chinese mirror

A polished bronze mirror unearthed in China's most complete Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 24) cemetery bears the...

New discoveries rewriting Stonehenge landscape

Archaeologists working near the Stonehenge World Heritage Site have discovered important new sites that rewrite the Stonehenge landscape....

Israeli dig uncovers 2,750-year-old temple

Rare evidence of the religious practices and rituals in the early days of the Kingdom of Judah has...