2014 GSA Annual Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia (19–22 October 2014)

Paper No. 221-20
Presentation Time: 1:45 PM


HOLT, Eric M., Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley, 625 West End Way, #303, Albany, CA 94706, e.holt@berkeley.edu

Aim Tule Elk (Cervus elaphus nannodes) declined from an estimated historic population of 500,000 individuals to a single breeding pair in the span of just a century. Cervus remains are somewhat rare in the Pleistocene fossil record of California, and they have garnered little research interest. Here I examine the literature and fossil record of Cervus from the California Pleistocene as well as associated faunal assemblages and environmental markers from each locality to compare the paleoenvironment utilized by Cervus with that of the extant Tule Elk.

Methods A survey of literature and museum records was done to locate sites from the California Pleistocene where Cervus remains were either mentioned or identified, yielding nine potential Cervus localities. The fossils from these sites were examined whenever possible, both to verify the presence of Cervus, and to note the abundance of other vertebrate fauna from each locality. Antilocapra, Camelops hesternus, Mammut americanum, Mammuthus columbi and Gopherus agassizi as well as several types of rodents are considered to have had moderately strong environmental preferences, and occur in association with Cervus remains at various sites. These associated taxa provide useful information about the paleoenvironment of localities in which Cervus remains are found and the habitats utilized by Pleistocene elk in California. Both Cervus and the associated fauna were mapped by species and locality.

Results Comparison of the maps of associated taxa to the locations where Cervus fossils have been found shows that localities with remains of Cervus elaphus from the California Pleistocene tend to be distributed along the Central Valley and are associated with an environment that would have ranged from temperate oak scrubland to semi-arid open scrubland, often with indicators of nearby closed woodlands.

Main Conclusions The environment associated with Pleistocene Cervus elaphus fossils appears to have been very much like that utilized by extant Tule Elk. Thus, by the late Pleistocene, we may already see differentiation of the Cervus elaphus population in California into the nannodes subspecies. However, the paucity of Cervus elaphus cranial elements in the local fossil record precludes identification to the subspecific level.

  • Cervus_Poster42x72e.pdf (1.3 MB)