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Continuity of mammalian fauna over the last 200,000 y in the Indian subcontinent
- Roberts, Patrick, Delson, Eric, Miracle, Preston, Ditchfield, Peter, Roberts, Richard G., Jacobs, Zenobia, Blinkhorn, James, Ciochon, Russell L., Fleagle, John G., Frost, Stephen R., Gilbert, Christopher C., Gunnell, Gregg F., Harrison, Terry, Korisettar, Ravi, Petraglia, Michael D.
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2014 v.111 no.16 pp. 5848-5853
- climate change, extinction, fauna, fossils, habitat fragmentation, habitats, humans, paleoecology, tropics, Australasian region, Europe, India, North America
- Mammalian extinction worldwide during the Late Pleistocene has been a major focus for Quaternary biochronology and paleoecology. These extinctions have been variably attributed to the impacts of climate change and human interference. However, until relatively recently, research has been largely restricted to the Americas, Europe, and Australasia. We present the oldest Middle–Late Pleistocene stratified and numerically dated faunal succession for the Indian subcontinent from the Billasurgam cave complex. Our data demonstrate continuity of 20 of 21 identified mammalian taxa from at least 100,000 y ago to the present, and in some cases up to 200,000 y ago. Comparison of this fossil record to contemporary faunal ranges indicates some geographical redistribution of mammalian taxa within India. We suggest that, although local extirpations occurred, the majority of taxa survived or adapted to substantial ecological pressures in fragmented habitats. Comparison of the Indian record with faunal records from Southeast and Southwest Asia demonstrates the importance of interconnected mosaic habitats to long-term faunal persistence across the Asian tropics. The data presented here have implications for mammalian conservation in India today, where increasing ecological circumscription may leave certain taxa increasingly endangered in the most densely populated region of the world.