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Relative-dating studies applied to high-altitude moraines (5000–5500 m) in the Rongbuk valley on the northern flank of Mt. Everest reveal strong contrasts in the weathering characteristics of the boulders exposed along moraine crests. These differences serve to define three intervals of major Pleistocene glaciation that, on the basis of the degree of weathering, are interpreted to extend back to at least the penultimate glaciation and probably encompass at least one still older glaciation. Either interpretation indicates that some of these moraines are considerably older than their previously assigned ages. The magnitude of equilibrium-line lowering during Neoglacial and late Pleistocene times is calculated to be ca. 50–100 and 350–450 m, respectively. The data described here are incompatible with the recently proposed model (Kuhle, 1987) for large-scale ice-sheet development on the Tibetan Plateau. The reconstructed equilibrium-line lowering in the Everest region is only 30% of that cited in the ice-sheet model. Moreover, the flow patterns and geometry of the former Rongbuk glaciers are in opposition to those proposed by the model. Based on the data from the Everest region, it appears that valley glaciation, rather than ice-sheet growth, characterized the southern margin of the Tibetan Plateau during the middle and late Pleistocene glaciations.
Loess near Luochuan was sampled for thermoluminescence (TL) dating simultaneously with magnetic susceptibility measurements to provide the first independent age estimates on a susceptibility record from the Loess Plateau of China. TL age estimates on late Pleistocene loess (L1) are stratigraphically consistent with no statistical difference in TL ages by the total or partial bleach techniques or by measuring ultraviolet or green wavelengths in the TL analysis. Loess below the last interglacial soil (S1) yielded disparate results and is in many localities in central and eastern China unsuitable for TL dating because of complications of TL saturation and uncertainties in estimating the environmental radiation. TL age estimates on the L1 loess are consistent with previously reported TL ages for sites near Beijing and Xian as well as in general agreement with age models for loess deposition based on paleomagnetics and magnetic susceptibility. The convergence of a variety of geochronologic indices indicate that the last major period of loess deposition in central China began 70,000 ± 10,000 yr B.P. and terminated <20,000 yr B.P. This event is probably recorded in sediments from the adjacent Pacific Ocean and possibly in dust records from the Antarctic Ice Sheet.
The magnetic susceptibility of loess and paleosols in central China represents a proxy climate index closely related to past changes of precipitation and vegetation, and thus to summer monsoon intensity. Time series of magnetic susceptibility constructed for three loess-paleosol sequences in the southern part of the Chinese Loess Plateau document the history of summer monsoon variation during the last 130,000 yr. They correlate closely with the oxygen isotope record of stages 1 to 5 in deep-sea sediments. Soils were forming during intervals of strong summer monsoon, whereas loess units were deposited at times of reduced monsoon intensity. The Chinese loess-paleosol sequence can thus be viewed as a proxy record of Asian monsoon variability extending over the last 2.5 myr.
Throughout China over the last 30,000 years high lake levels were reached during 30,000–24,000, 22,500-20,000, and 9500-3500 yr B.P. Lake recovery after the last glacial maximum (LGM) apparently was much slower, and involved stronger regional differences, than was lake regression during the onset of the last glaciation. According to the character of lake development during the last 18,000 years, three regions and six subregions have been distinguished. In the Tibetan Plateau and alpine regions of western China the plentiful supply of meltwater may have caused lakes to recover and reach their highest levels fust after the LGM. Lake hydrology in central and northern China was directly controlled by rainfall and evaporation, and most lakes reached their highest levels between 9500 and 3500 yr B.P. In the lowlands of eastern China lake recovery was closely tied with channel aggradation and water level rise of rivers, which are associated with Holocene sea level rise and human agricultural activities. Most lakes recovered and were most extensive in the middle and late Holocene.
Electron spin resonance ages of 11 corals from the lower part of the Ryukyu Group, Japan can be classified into two groups (about 600,000 and 800,000 yr). The result indicates that the lower part of the Ryukyu Group is correlated to at least two of the oxygen isotope stages 15, 17, 19, 21, and 23. Lowermost part of the Ryukyu Group was probably deposited during a large transgression and may be correlated worldwide.
Accumulation rates of biogenic and lithogenic components were studied in 39 turbidite-free, well-dated sediment cores from the northern Indian Ocean to define the proportions of fluvial and eolian input and to reconstruct Quaternary patterns of coastal upwelling. The majority of dust deposited in the western Arabian Sea during the Holocene (about 100 × 106t yr−1) is advected from Arabia by northwesterly winds, which overlie the low-level southwest monsoon. The glacial increase in dust flux to 160 × 106t yr−1 culminated in the northern Arabian Sea, most probably due to (i) entrainment of dust, rich in chlorite, dolomite, and lithogenic carbonate in the then-dry Persian Gulf, and (ii) a southward shift of the mean position of the southwest monsoon during glacial summer. This shift is recorded in reduced accumulation rates of biogenic opal and increased rates of marine carbonate off Somalia and Oman. Both the terrigenous and biogenic sediment records show that the northwesterly winds and the southwest monsoon persisted over the last 27,000 yr, as well as the Asian continental summer heat low. However, the glacial seasonal time span of the southwest monsoon season was much reduced, most likely because of a delay in the seasonal onset of the southwest monsoon.
The late Pleistocene deposits of Equus Cave, northern Cape Province, South Africa, have provided more than 30,000 taxonomically identifiable mammal bones from 48 species. Context, associations, and features of the bone assemblage implicate brown hyenas as the main accumulators. The fauna is significant mainly because (1) it supplements previous evidence that regional climate was cooler and possibly also somewhat moister during part(s) of the late Pleistocene, but deviated less from the historic norm than in areas farther south; (2) it shows that Bond's springbok, which became extinct in the early Holocene, differed from the surviving common springbok not only in important morphological respects but also in reproductive pattern; and (3) it sustains earlier suggestions that an abundance of carnivores, a paucity of small hard bones, and increase in the cranial/postcranial ratio with species size, and exclusively attritional mortality profiles are features that tend to differentiate assemblages accumulated by brown hyenas from those accumulated by people. In addition, pending firmer dating, the fragmentary human fossils from Equus Cave may support an exclusively African origin for anatomically modern humans.
Salvage excavations of a nearly complete and remarkably well-preserved skeleton of an American mastodont (Mammut americanum) in Licking County, Ohio, yielded a discrete, cylindrical mass of plant material found in association with articulated vertebrae and associated ribs. This material is interpreted as intestinal contents of the mastodont and paleobotanical analyses indicate that the mastodont diet included significant amounts of low, herbaceous vegetation. Enteric bacteria (Enterobacter cloacae), isolated from a sample of this material, are believed to represent survivors or descendants of the intestinal microflora of the mastodont. This is the first report of the isolation of bacteria associated with late Pleistocene megafauna.
Eleven conventional and 15 AMS (accelerator mass spectrometer) radiocarbon dates establish chronologies for nine Holocene vertebrate fossil sites in the Galápagos Islands, Ecuador. A Holocene fossil record approaching 500,000 bones, more than 90% of which predate the arrival of people, shows that most or all cases of extinction or extirpation in the Galápagos occurred after first human contact in AD 1535. This is especially significant for two species of large rodents (Megaoryzomys spp.) that are known only from bones found in lava tubes. The highest rate of background (prehuman) extinction interpreted from the Galápagos fossil record is probably hundreds of times less than the modern rate of human-related extinction.