GSA Annual Meeting in Seattle, Washington, USA - 2017

Paper No. 306-9
Presentation Time: 10:30 AM


TRAYLER, Robin B.1, KOHN, Matthew J.2, BARGO, Susana3, CUITIÑO, José I.4, KAY, Richard F.5, STRÖMBERG, Caroline A.E.6 and VIZCAÍNO, Sergio F.3, (1)Geosciences, Boise State University, 1910 University Drive, Boise, ID 83725; Department of Geosciences, Boise State University, 1910 University Drive, Boise, ID 83725, (2)Dept. of Geosciences, Boise State University, 1910 University Dr, Boise, ID 83725; Geosciences, Boise State University, 1910 University Drive, Boise, ID 83725, (3)División Paleontología de Vertebrados, Museo de La Plata, Unidades de Investigación Anexo Museo, Av. 60 y 122, 1900, La Plata, Argentina, (4)3IPGP, CENPAT-CONICET, Boulevard Almirante Brown 2915, Puerto Madryn U9120ACD, Chubut, Argentina, (5)Evolutionary Anthropology, Duke University, Box 90383, Durham, NC 27708, (6)Department of Biology, University of Washington, 24 Kincaid Hall, Box 351800, Seattle, WA 98195-1800,

High atmospheric CO2 concentrations (pCO2>400ppm), low ice volume, and high ocean temperature during the mid-Miocene Climatic Optimum (MMCO; ~17.0-14.5 Ma) are thought to have driven the expansion of warm, wet ecosystems to high latitudes. Faunas of fossil bearing strata of the Santa Cruz Formation (SCF), southern Argentina (47-52° south latitude) record this expansion. The SCF has produced a diverse assemblage of vertebrate fossils, with species richness similar to modern lowland tropical forests. Previous faunal analysis suggested high mean annual precipitation (MAP > 1000 mm/yr) and warm mean annual temperatures (MAT > 14°C, but did not investigate ecological changes through time. Here we present new stable carbon (δ13C) and oxygen (δ18O) isotope compositions of fossil enamel and bone recovered from strata spanning the initiation of the MMCO to quantify changes to precipitation and temperature.

We collected isotope compositions from ~175 individuals over ~150 m of stratigraphic section. Large herbivores – Nesodon, Adinotherium, and Astrapotherium – are best represented. Each sample was assigned an age and uncertainty based on its stratigraphic position using new isotope dilution U-Pb zircon dates of interbedded tuffs (range ~17.8-16.6 Ma) and a Bayesian age-depth model. We used a Monte Carlo approach to propagate the uncertainty in age to the isotope compositions to produce a continuous model of δ13C and δ18O values over an ~1.2 Ma interval. Modeled enamel δ13C values indicate C3 feeding with an increase from ~-13‰ to -10‰ over the interval. δ13C values increase sharply by ~2‰ from ~17.9-17.5 Ma followed by a gradual rise of ~1‰ to 16.6 Ma. Modeled δ18O gradually increases ~2‰ over the entire interval from ~23 to ~25‰. Based on δ13C of fossils (plants consumed) and the atmosphere, MAP decreased ~63% over the interval from ~1350 mm/y to ~500 mm/yr, while MAT rose from ~22° to 27°C. Isotopic zoning is low (~2‰) in several serial sampled molars, suggesting little seasonal variability in diet and drinking water composition. These data suggest aridification of the SCF and an ecological shift towards more open habitats at the onset of the MMCO. Modern atmospheric pCO2 reached MMCO concentrations in mid 2016, making studies of this interval newly relevant to both paleo and modern studies of climate and ecology.