Tuesday, August 6, 2019

[PaleoMammalogy • 2019] Causes and Consequences of Pleistocene Megafaunal Extinctions as Revealed from Rancho La Brea Mammals

 the hunting behavior of La Brea carnivores, including saber-toothed cats, dire wolves, and coyotes.  

in DeSantis, Crites, Feranec, et al., 2019. 
Illustration: Mauricio Antón 

• Sabertooth cats and dire wolves were not in competition for similar prey
• Sabertooth cats scavenged more intensively during cooler intervals
 • Coyote diets were substantially affected by the extinction of megafauna
• Rancho La Brea fossils reveal that diets of carnivorans are not always conserved

The fossils preserved in the Rancho La Brea “tar” seeps in southern California span the past ∼50,000 years and provide a rare opportunity to assess the ecology of predators (e.g., the American lion, sabertooth cats, cougars, dire wolves, gray wolves, and coyotes), including clarifying the causes and consequences of the terminal Pleistocene extinction event. Here, a multi-proxy approach elucidates dietary responses of carnivorans to changing climates and megafaunal extinctions. Using sample sizes that are unavailable anywhere else in the world, including hundreds of carnivoran and herbivore specimens, we clarify the paleobiology of the extinct sabertooth cats and dire wolves—overturning the idea that they heavily competed for similar prey. Canids (especially the dire wolf) consumed prey from more open environments than felids, demonstrating minimal competition for prey throughout the latest Pleistocene and largely irrespective of changing climates, including just prior to their extinction. Coyotes experienced a dramatic shift in dietary behavior toward increased carcass utilization and the consumption of forest resources (prey and/or plant resources) after the terminal Pleistocene megafaunal extinction. Extant predators’ ability to effectively hunt smaller prey and/or utilize carcasses may have been a key to their survival, especially after a significant reduction in megafaunal prey resources. Collectively, these data suggest that dietary niches of carnivorans are not always static and can instead be substantially affected by the removal of top predators and abundant prey resources.

 Keywords: Canis, Carnivora, diet, dental microwear, mammals, paleoecology, Pleistocene, Rancho La Brea, Smilodon, stable isotopes

 the hunting behavior of La Brea carnivores, including saber-toothed cats, dire wolves, and coyotes.
Illustration: Mauricio Antón

 Larisa R.G. DeSantis, Jonathan M. Crites, Robert S. Feranec, Kena Fox-Dobbs, Aisling B. Farrell, John M. Harris, Gary T. Takeuchi and Thure E. Cerling. 2019. Causes and Consequences of Pleistocene Megafaunal Extinctions as Revealed from Rancho La Brea Mammals.  Current Biology. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.06.059

Intense look at La Brea Tar Pits explains why we have coyotes, not saber-toothed cats phys.org/news/2019-08-intense-la-brea-tar-pits.html via @physorg_com
Saber-tooth surprise: Fossils redraw picture of the fearsome big cat
 on.natgeo.com/2M29oUu via @NatGeoScience



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