American Megafaunal Extinctions at the End of the Pleistocene

Part of the series Vertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology pp 55-75

Paleobiology and Extinction of Proboscideans in the Great Lakes Region of North America

  • Daniel C. FisherAffiliated withMuseum of Paleontology and Department of Geological Sciences, University of Michigan Ann Arbor

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I would like to address the topic of this chapter in calm reflection on a mature body of data, representing a balanced sampling of the empirical record and unhurried evaluation of its possible interpretations. I would also like to be 5 – no, 10 – years further along in the very labor-intensive process of compiling that empirical record! For now, however, I will have to settle for a status report on a series of ongoing investigations designed to assess the nature of late Pleistocene proboscidean occurrences and evaluate aspects of proboscidean paleobiology that have the potential to yield insights concerning the ecological stresses encountered by these animals during the centuries and millennia leading up to the time of their ultimate extinction.

This book focuses on the broad problem of late Pleistocene losses of megafaunal taxa across the Americas, which is itself a geographically, taxonomically, and temporally restricted subset of the larger problem of worldwide losses of megafaunal diversity. In contrast, my title carves out an even smaller region (and set of taxa) as the domain for my analysis. Work in progress actually involves proboscideans from more diverse regions of the Americas and from Siberia as well, and it has involved a variety of aspects of proboscidean paleobiology, but only for the Great Lakes region of North America are there enough data in hand at this time to warrant a summary of trends that offer evidence of the cause of extinction.


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