This up-to-date exploration of vertebrate cave life during the Ice Age presents important studies on North American cave paleontology. Although not intended to be all-inclusive, the book contains essays that range from overviews of the significance of cave fossils to reports about new localities... show more
This up-to-date exploration of vertebrate cave life during the Ice Age presents important studies on North American cave paleontology. Although not intended to be all-inclusive, the book contains essays that range from overviews of the significance of cave fossils to reports about new localities and studies of specific vertebrate groups. The essays describe how cave remains record the evolutionary patterns and biogeography of organisms, how they can help reconstruct past ecosystems and climates, and how they provide an important record of the evolution of modern ecosystems. There is also information about traces of human activity found in caves. The book's eclectic nature should appeal to students, professional and amateur paleontologists, biologists, geologists, speleologists, and cavers.
Caves can preserve biotic remains in a stable tomblike setting for thousands or even millions of years, thereby providing an intriguing, though very selective, record for paleontologists. Fossils help date cave deposits and determine the time the cave opened to the surface. Caves also preserve parts of biological communities that once made use of the cave or the area around it, yielding useful information about ancient ecosystems, such as that of coastal Alaska described in the essay included here.
The climatic fluctuations of the Pleistocene are well known, reflected in cyclic glacial advances and retreats. These climate changes resulted in rapid reorganization of biological communities, the disperal of humans into the Americas, and megafaunal extinction of mammoths, mastodons, and ground sloths, among others. One essays looks at fossils found in caves in the midcontinental United States and how they have proven useful for understanding these events. More recent, Holocene cave deposits are rarely studied by paleontologists because they do not contain extinct taxa. But another essay shows that these deposits can reveal important clues about the evolution of modern ecosystems.
Other essays focus on the paleongeography and paleoecology of sloths, rodents, and tapirs; the karst region of central Texas; and little-studied Mexican cave faunas, including a summary of Mexican Pleistocene cave paleontology that provides a baseline for future work in that region.