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Middle Pleistocene Climate Change in the Colorado Rocky Mountains Indicated by Fossil Mammals from Porcupine Cave

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017


Fossiliferous sediments from The Pit Locality in Porcupine Cave, Park County, Colorado, span multiple glacial and interglacial cycles between ca. 800,000 and 400,000 yr B.P. at 2900 m elevation. The uppermost cycle probably represents oxygenisotope glacial Stage 12 (stratigraphic Levels 4 and 3) and interglacial Stage 11 (Levels 3, 2, and 1) as determined by arvicoline biostratigraphic data that place the sequence between 487,000 and 365,000 yr B.P. A no-analog assemblage comprising the bog lemming Mictomys meltoni (of the M. borealis lineage) and the sagebrush vole Lemmiscus curtatus (=Lagurus curtatus) characterizes both the glacial and the interglacial deposits. Climatographs for these two species suggest that, compared to present conditions, the following local climatic limits can be imposed on oxygenisotope Stages 12 and 11: (1) January effective moisture was greater, resulting from average temperatures of at least 5°C cooler and/or at least 15 mm more precipitation; (2) January solar radiation was lower by at least 75 Langleys; (3) effective July solar radiation might have been lower by at least 50 Langleys. Seasonal temperature extremes were not necessarily different from those of the present, but seasonal precipitation was more equable. Relative abundance of mammal taxa and sedimentological data indicate that aridity increased at the onset of the interglacial.

University of Washington

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