New research: Bison dung, prairie plants, and mammoth inferences

The Contemplative Mammoth

What happens when large herbivores disappear from landscapes? Much of my research to date has used the extinction of the Pleistocene megafauna as a natural experiment, documenting the cascading effects of the loss of large herbivores on the plant communities they left behind. To do this, I marshall the paleoecological record preserved in lakes, reconstructing plant communities with fossil pollen. Megaherbivores are a bit trickier. Since the fossil bone record is spotty through space and time, I’ve instead used a different “proxy” to reconstruct the presence and absence of megaherbivores: a genus of dung fungus called Sporormiella. Sporormiella is coprophilous (e.g., “dung loving”), which means it has to go through herbivore digestion in order to reproduce. Using these spores, which are also preserved in lakes along with pollen, I’ve shown that the extinction of the Pleistocene megafauna contributed to the formation of novel plant associations and altered fire regimes…

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About marksolock

I am a lawyer in Chicago with interests in pop culture and current politics.
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