Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Climate change and mountain building led to mammal diversity patterns

Date:
May 8, 2010
Source:
University of Michigan
Summary:
Travel from the tropics to the poles, and you'll notice that the diversity of mammals declines with distance from the equator. Move from lowland to mountains, and you'll see diversity increase as the landscape becomes more varied. Ecologists have proposed various explanations for these well-known "biodiversity gradients," invoking ecological, evolutionary and historical processes. New findings suggest that the elevational patterns of diversity we see today have appeared, disappeared and reappeared over Earth's history and that these patterns arise from interactions between climate change and mountain building.

Golden-mantled ground squirrel in Utah mountains and fossil squirrel jaw document high rodent diversity in topographically complex western North America today and 16 Million years ago.
Credit: Squirrel photo by Catherine Badgley; Fossil rodent jaw photo by University of California Museum of Paleontology (photo used with permission); Topographic pattern from MyTopo (used with permission)

Travel from the tropics to the poles, and you'll notice that the diversity of mammals declines with distance from the equator. Move from lowland to mountains, and you'll see diversity increase as the landscape becomes more varied. Ecologists have proposed various explanations for these well-known "biodiversity gradients," invoking ecological, evolutionary and historical processes.

Related Articles


New findings by University of Michigan researchers John A. Finarelli and Catherine Badgley suggest that the elevational patterns of diversity we see today have appeared, disappeared and reappeared over Earth's history and that these patterns arise from interactions between climate change and mountain building.

The results, published online in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, also have implications for conservation efforts in the face of modern-day global warming, said Finarelli, a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Geological Sciences.

In their study, focused on the Miocene Epoch, which began around 23 million years ago and ended about 5 million years ago, Finarelli and Badgley evaluated diversity for more than 400 rodent species from adjacent regions that differed in geologic history and topography. The geologically "active region," which extends from the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific coast, has experienced several episodes of mountain-building and volcanic activity, and as a result has a topographically complex landscape. In contrast, the relatively flat Great Plains, has been more stable geologically.

The prevailing notion has been that diversity is greater in mountainous regions than in lowlands simply because the topography is more complex. As mountains rise up, new habitats are created, and areas that once were continuous become fragmented. Such changes offer opportunities for new species to arise, increasing diversity.

But climate also enters in, the new study shows. During the Miocene, long-term, global cooling was interrupted by warm intervals. In the active region, diversity increased during a warm interval from 17 to 14 million years ago that coincided with intensified mountain building and volcanic activity, the analysis revealed. During subsequent cooling, diversity declined in the mountains and increased on the plains.

"This pattern suggests that the elevational diversity gradient arises during historical episodes associated with global warming and mountain building," said Badgley, an assistant professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and a research scientist in the Museum of Paleontology and the Department of Geological Sciences. "This gradient is not a long-term feature of North American biodiversity."

Although the research focused on ancient ecosystems, the findings have implications for modern times, Finarelli said. "Based on our finding that more complex regions are more sensitive to climate change, threatened areas in mountainous regions should be a particular conservation concern, with respect to human-mediated climate change."

The work also highlights the importance of studies that merge the disciplines of paleontology and biogeography, Finarelli said. "By marrying the two subjects, we can gain a better insight into the ecological and evolutionary processes shaping the world around us."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Michigan. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. J. A. Finarelli, C. Badgley. Diversity dynamics of Miocene mammals in relation to the history of tectonism and climate. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2010; DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2010.0348

Cite This Page:

University of Michigan. "Climate change and mountain building led to mammal diversity patterns." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 May 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100505163236.htm>.
University of Michigan. (2010, May 8). Climate change and mountain building led to mammal diversity patterns. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 27, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100505163236.htm
University of Michigan. "Climate change and mountain building led to mammal diversity patterns." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100505163236.htm (accessed March 27, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, March 27, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Jockey Motion Tracking Reveals Racing Prowess

Jockey Motion Tracking Reveals Racing Prowess

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Mar. 26, 2015) Using motion tracking technology, researchers from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) are trying to establish an optimum horse riding style to train junior jockeys, as well as enhance safety, health and well-being of both racehorses and jockeys. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Botswana Talks to End Illegal Wildlife Trade

Botswana Talks to End Illegal Wildlife Trade

AFP (Mar. 25, 2015) Experts are gathering in Botswana to try to end the illegal wildlife trade that is decimating populations of elephants, rhinos and other threatened species. Duration: 01:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Elephants Help Keep 18-Wheeler From Toppling Over

Elephants Help Keep 18-Wheeler From Toppling Over

Newsy (Mar. 25, 2015) The Natchitoches Parish Sheriff&apos;s Office discovered two elephants keeping a tractor-trailer that had gotten stuck in some mud upright on a highway. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Baby 'pet' Orangutan Rescued from Chicken Cage Takes First Steps

Baby 'pet' Orangutan Rescued from Chicken Cage Takes First Steps

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Mar. 25, 2015) Buti, a baby orangutan who was left malnourished in a chicken cage before his rescue, takes his first steps after months of painful physical therapy. Mana Rabiee reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins