Diversity dynamics of Miocene mammals in relation to the history of tectonism and climate.Proc Biol Sci. 2010 Sep 07; 277(1694):2721-6.PB
Continental biodiversity gradients result not only from ecological processes, but also from evolutionary and geohistorical processes involving biotic turnover in landscape and climatic history over millions of years. Here, we investigate the evolutionary and historical contributions to the gradient of increasing species richness with topographic complexity. We analysed a dataset of 418 fossil rodent species from western North America spanning 25 to 5 Ma. We compared diversification histories between tectonically active (Intermontane West) and quiescent (Great Plains) regions. Although diversification histories differed between the two regions, species richness, origination rate and extinction rate per million years were not systematically different over the 20 Myr interval. In the tectonically active region, the greatest increase in originations coincided with a Middle Miocene episode of intensified tectonic activity and global warming. During subsequent global cooling, species richness declined in the montane region and increased on the Great Plains. These results suggest that interactions between tectonic activity and climate change stimulate diversification in mammals. The elevational diversity gradient characteristic of modern mammalian faunas was not a persistent feature over geologic time. Rather, the Miocene rodent record suggests that the elevational diversity gradient is a transient feature arising during particular episodes of Earth's history.