Title

Widespread loss of mammalian lineage and dietary diversity in the early Oligocene of Afro-Arabia

Funding Number

BCS-0416164

Funding Sponsor

National Science Foundation

Find in your Library

https://doi.org/10.1038/s42003-021-02707-9

Document Type

Research Article

Publication Title

Communications Biology

Publication Date

12-1-2021

doi

10.1038/s42003-021-02707-9

Abstract

Diverse lines of geological and geochemical evidence indicate that the Eocene-Oligocene transition (EOT) marked the onset of a global cooling phase, rapid growth of the Antarctic ice sheet, and a worldwide drop in sea level. Paleontologists have established that shifts in mammalian community structure in Europe and Asia were broadly coincident with these events, but the potential impact of early Oligocene climate change on the mammalian communities of Afro-Arabia has long been unclear. Here we employ dated phylogenies of multiple endemic Afro-Arabian mammal clades (anomaluroid and hystricognath rodents, anthropoid and strepsirrhine primates, and carnivorous hyaenodonts) to investigate lineage diversification and loss since the early Eocene. These analyses provide evidence for widespread mammalian extinction in the early Oligocene of Afro-Arabia, with almost two-thirds of peak late Eocene diversity lost in these clades by ~30 Ma. Using homology-free dental topographic metrics, we further demonstrate that the loss of Afro-Arabian rodent and primate lineages was associated with a major reduction in molar occlusal topographic disparity, suggesting a correlated loss of dietary diversity. These results raise new questions about the relative importance of global versus local influences in shaping the evolutionary trajectories of Afro-Arabia’s endemic mammals during the Oligocene.

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