Mammal body size during the Quaternary period varies between sites and over time. We are comparing ice age mammal species from the past 750,000 years in Britain to investigate the causes of this variation.
Current hypotheses to explain body size variation in ice age mammals include:
We are studying mammal fossils to investigate the causes of body size variation. The specimens:
Previous work on plant and mammal fossils has produced valuable resources for the study of body size variation, including:
Body mass is a fundamental parameter for understanding the adaptations, ecology and life-history of mammals. Our data are key in determining the effect of past climate change on individual species and community function.
The Quaternary is the most recent geological period, and many of the targeted mammal species are alive today. Our results will help to predict and understand the effects of current and future climate change on mammal fauna.
To estimate palaeoenvironmental conditions, we use:
We are converting bone measurement data to body mass, using regression equations based on living species. A mean body mass for each species is obtained for each fossil site or horizon.
Mammal body masses are compared to palaeoenvironmental indices using a multivariate statistical approach. This should enable us to:
Researcher in the Vertebrates and Anthropology Palaeobiology Division, studying processes of evolution and extinction in Quaternary mammals.
Dr Tom White
Post-doctoral researcher in palaeoenvironmental data, University of Oxford.
An entomologist researching the effects of climate change by studying Chironomidae.
Dr Judy Allen and Dr Yvonne Collingham
Mr Juha Saarinen
University of Helsinki
A geological period spanning approximately the last 2.6 million years.
A geological epoch within the Quaternary period, lasting from 2.6 million to around 11,700 years ago.