ELT Collaborative Research: Evolutionary and ecological responses of small mammal communities to habitat and climate change over the last 5 million years

Lead PI: Pratigya Polissar, Kevin Uno

Unit Affiliation: Biology and Paleo Environment, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO)

August 2013 - July 2017
Project Type: Research

DESCRIPTION: Understanding the origin of modern communities is a fundamental goal of ecology, but reconstructing the history of communities that include species with stratigraphic durations on the scale of hundreds of thousands to millions of years necessarily requires data from the fossil record. Similarly, inferences about the paleoecology of past communities are most robust when informed by data from both living and fossil populations of extant species. Despite the logical connections between ecology and paleoecology, relatively few studies have bridged the gaps in the characteristic observational timescales and methodologies of these disciplines to achieve a comprehensive view of the long-term evolution of specific modern communities. The need to bridge these disciplinary gaps is increasingly pressing in the face of anthropogenic climate change and uncertainty about the magnitude and direction of responses by local communities. This project will examine the ecological, environmental, and climatic context of the origin of the modern small mammal community in the grasslands of the central USA over the last five million years. We will test the effects of both biological and non-biological factors on long-term taxonomic turnover and ecological change in a stratigraphic sequence of local communities using a combination of ecomorphology, biogeochemistry, paleoclimate modeling, and biogeography. This project will link evolution, ecology, and paleoecology with biogeochemistry to trace the emergence of a modern ecosystem over geological time.


National Science Foundation (NSF)






Fox, David Martin, Robert A. Roepke, Elizabeth Fetrow, Anne Fischer-Femal, Brenden Uno, Kevin T. Fox-Dobbs, K Snell, Kathryn E. Haveles, Andrew W. Polissar, P. J.. "Biotic and Abiotic Forcing During the Transition to Modern Grassland Ecosystems: Evolutionary and Ecological Responses of Small Mammal Communities Over the Last 5 Million Years," The Paleontological Society Papers: Earth Life Transitions, Paleobiology in the Context of Earth System Evolution, v.21, 2015, p. 197. doi:1089-3326


mammal communities climate change taxonomy evolution


Earth fundamentals