Highs and Lows of the Rocky Mountains in the Middle to Late Eocene – #365papers – 2017 – 97

#365papers for April 7, 2017

Fan, Constensius, and Dettman, 2017, Prolonged high relief in the northern Cordilleran orogenic front during middle and late Eocene extension based on stable isotope paleoaltimetry: Earth and Plantery Science Letters, v. 457, p. 376-384.

What’s it about?

The Rocky Mountains have been around for a long, long time. This study focuses on a part of the Rockies that was still growing between about 46 to about 34 million years ago. Through the study of fossil soils and fossil snails, the authors show that the difference between the lowest basins and the highest mountain peaks was around 4 km – which is a lot! Continue reading

Tall Teeth and Grazing Diets – #365papers – 2017 – 94

#365papers for April 4, 2017

Feranec and Pagnac, 2017, Hypsodonty, horses, and the spread of C4 grasses during the middle Miocene in southern California: Evolutionary Ecology Research, v. 18, p. 201-223.

What’s it about?

Modern horses have very tall (hypsodont) teeth. This is thought to be an adaptation for grazing, because chewing grass wears down teeth faster than chewing the leaves off a tree.

A fossil horse tooth from Natural Trap Cave. The grinding surface is on the left. Only about 1/5 of this tooth stuck above the gum line.

Paleontologists use the height of the tooth (its hypsodonty) to distinguish animals that grazed from those that ate bushes, shrubs, and trees (called browsing).

Isotopically, grasses look different from leaves from bushes. This chemical difference gets recorded into teeth.

The authors use isotopes from early horses that are hypsodont to show that tall teeth are related to doing more grazing. Continue reading

Birth of the Amazon River – #365papers – 2017 – 80

#365papers for March 21, 2017

Hoorn, Bogota-A, Romero-Baez, Lammertsma, Flantua, Dantas, Dino, Carmo, and Chemale, 2017, The Amazon at sea: Onset and stages of the Amazon River from a marine record, with special reference to Neogene plant turnover in the drainage basin: Global and Planetary Change.

What’s it about?

The authors of this paper use data from an ocean core collected in the delta of the Amazon River to determine when the Amazon River began to deposit sediments into the ocean and also when it began to carry sediments all the way from the Andes Mountains. Continue reading

Putting All the Data Together Makes a More Complete History – #365papers – 2017 – 77

#365papers for March 18, 2017

Feakins, Levin, Liddy, Sieracki, Eglinton, and Bonnefille, 2017, Northeast African vegetation change over 12 m.y.: Geology, v. 41, p. 295-298.

What’s it about?

The authors combine pollen and isotopic data from fossil leaf waxes from an ocean core with soil carbonate data from northeast Africa to better understand the origin and composition of grasslands in northeast Africa over the last 12 million years. Continue reading

Global Warming; Shrinking Mammals – #365papers – 2017 – 76

#365papers for March 17, 2017

D’Ambrosia, Clyde, Fricke, Gringerich, Abels, 2017, Repetitive mammalian dwarfing during ancient greenhouse warming events: Science Advances, v. 3, e1601430.

What’s it about?

Rapid global warming in Earth’s past had occurred more than once. The most commonly studied episode occurred 55 million years ago, at the boundary between the Paleocene and Eocene epochs (Paleocene Eocene Thermal Maximum, PETM). Several other episodes have happened, including the ETM2 and H2 episodes which are discussed in this paper.

Dwarfing of mammalian species has been documented at the PETM. This paper shows dwarfing of mammals also occurred at the ETM2. Continue reading

How Soil Carbonate Can Tell Us About Climate – #365papers – 2017 – 75

#365papers for March 16, 2017

Cerling, T.E., 1984, The stable isotopic composition of modern soil carbonate and its relationship to climate: Earth and Planetary Science Letters, v. 71, p. 229-240.

What’s it about?

This paper discusses in detail how isotopes of carbon and oxygen in carbonate minerals that form in soils are related to that of plant biomass (carbon) or local precipitation (oxygen). Continue reading

Lakes Come and Go, 50 Million Years Ago – #365papers – 2017 – 69

#365papers for March 10, 2017

Davis, Wiegand, Carroll, and Chamberlain, 2008, The effect of dreainage reorganization on paleoaltimetry studies: An example from the Paleogene Laramide foreland: Earth and Planetary Science Letters, v. 275, p. 258-268.

What’s it about?

The authors use isotopes of carbon, oxygen, and strontium, plus relative abundances of strontium and calcium in lake deposits to interpret water sources, connectivity of lakes, and general environmental parameters for the Uinta Basin during the Eocene (~55-~43 million years ago). Continue reading

The Middle Eocene Climatic Optimum in the Northern Hemisphere – #365papers – 2017 – 67

#365papers for March 8, 2017

Jovane, Florindo Coccioni, Dianares-Turell, Marsili, Monechi, Roberts, Sprovieri, 2007, The middle Eocene climatic optimum event in the Contessa Highway section, Umbrian Apennines, Italy: GSA Bulletin, v. 119, p. 413-427.

What’s it about?

This paper like others I’ve read recently discusses the abundance of single-celled organisms in the ocean called foraminifera (forams). The overall abundance of different species plus isotopic analysis of the fossils themselves can provide insights about climate during the middle Eocene. Continue reading

Paleogene Antarctic ocean circulation from isotopes – #365papers – 2017 – 66

#365papers for March 7, 2017

Kennett and Stott, 1990 Proteus and Proto-Oceanus: ancestral paleogene oceans as revealed from Antarctic stable isotopic results; ODP Leg 113: Proceedings of the Ocean Drilling Programs, Scientific Results, v. 113, p. 865-880.

What’s it about?

These are the published results of an ocean drilling cruise that took place in Antarctica in the late 1980’s. A core from the ocean floor was drilled and various parts of it were studied. This paper discusses geochemical results from the skeletons (tests) of single-celled organisms called foraminifera (forams) found throughout the core. From these results, the authors discuss deep ocean currents from millions of years ago. Continue reading

The Paleocene-Eocene boundary in deep ocean foraminifera – #365papers – 2017 – 65

#365papers for March 6, 2017

Thomas and Shackleton, 1996, The Paleocene-Eocene benthic forminiferal extinction and stable isotope anomalies, in Knox, Corfield, Dunay, eds., Correlation of the Early Paleogene in Northwest Europe: Geological Society Special Publication n. 101, p. 401-441.

What’s it about?

This paper examines the abundance and geochemistry of single-celled organisms called foraminiferans (forams) that were living in the oceans around 55 million years ago. Forams are still present today worldwide. They make little tiny calcite skeletons (called tests) that can be used to identify the species and then can be analyzed.

Using these foram skeletons, the authors identified the many species that lived in the ocean before and after the Paleocene-Eocene boundary and recognized some extinctions associated with the boundary. With geochemical analysis, they showed that there are some significant anomalies (rapid, unexpected changes) at the Paleocene-Eocene boundary. Continue reading