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Faunal interchange and Miocene terrestrial vertebrates of southern Asia

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 July 2015

John C. Barry
Department of Anthropology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138
Michele E. Morgan
Department of Anthropology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138
Alisa J. Winkler
Department of Geological Sciences and Shuler Museum of Paleontology, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas 75275
Lawrence J. Flynn
Department of Anthropology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138
Everett H. Lindsay
Department of Geosciences, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona 85721
Louis L. Jacobs
Department of Geological Sciences and Shuler Museum of Paleontology, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas 75275
David Pilbeam
Department of Anthropology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138


Problems of stratigraphic completeness and poor temporal resolution make analysis of faunal change in terrestrial sequences difficult. The fluvial Neogene Siwalik formations of India and Pakistan are an exception. They contain a long vertebrate record and have good chronostratigraphic control, making it possible to assess the influence of biotic interchange on Siwalik fossil communities. In Pakistan, the interval between 18 and 7 Ma has been most intensively studied and changes in diversity and relative abundance of ruminant artiodactyls and muroid rodents are documented with temporal resolution of 200,000 years. Within this interval, diversity varies considerably, including an abrupt rise in species number between 15 and 13 Ma, followed by a decline in ruminant diversity after 12 Ma and a decline in muroid diversity in two steps at 13 and 10 Ma. Significant changes in relative abundance of taxa include an increase in bovids between 16.5 and 15 Ma, a decrease in tragulids after 9 Ma, and a very abrupt increase in murids at 12 Ma. Megacricetodontine rodents also decrease significantly at 12 Ma, and smaller declines are recorded among myocricetodontine and copemyine rodents after 16 Ma. An increase of dendromurine rodents at 15.5 Ma is also observed. There is also a trend of progressive size increase among giraffoids and bovids throughout the sequence.

We have also investigated relationships between biotic interchange and diversity, body size, and relative abundance, concluding that (1) the rapid increase in ruminant and muroid diversity was largely due to immigration, whereas in situ speciation had only a secondary role; (2) during intervals of increasing diversity, resident lineages did not have higher than average rates of in situ speciation; (3) during intervals with rising diversity, greater extinction did not accompany increased immigration; (4) during intervals with falling diversity, there may have been greater extinction in recently invading lineages; and (5) change in diversity was independent of changes in relative abundance and body size.

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