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    DeMiguel, Daniel Azanza, Beatriz Cegoñino, José Ruiz, Inmaculada and Morales, Jorge 2016. The interplay between increased tooth crown-height and chewing efficiency, and implications for Cervidae evolution. Lethaia, Vol. 49, Issue. 1, p. 117.

    Kaiser, Thomas M. 2009. Anchitherium aurelianense (Equidae, Mammalia): a brachydont “dirty browser” in the community of herbivorous large mammals from Sandelzhausen (Miocene, Germany). Paläontologische Zeitschrift, Vol. 83, Issue. 1, p. 131.

    Townsend, K. E. Beth and Croft, Darin A. 2008. Diets of notoungulates from the Santa Cruz Formation, Argentina: new evidence from enamel microwear. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, Vol. 28, Issue. 1, p. 217.

    Retallack, Gregory J. 2007. Cenozoic Paleoclimate on Land in North America. The Journal of Geology, Vol. 115, Issue. 3, p. 271.

    Jernvall, Jukka and Fortelius, Mikael 2002. Common mammals drive the evolutionary increase of hypsodonty in the Neogene. Nature, Vol. 417, Issue. 6888, p. 538.

    Retallack, Gregory J Tanaka, Satoshi and Tate, Timothy 2002. Late Miocene advent of tall grassland paleosols in Oregon. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, Vol. 183, Issue. 3-4, p. 329.

    Retallack, Gregory J. 2001. Cenozoic Expansion of Grasslands and Climatic Cooling. The Journal of Geology, Vol. 109, Issue. 4, p. 407.

  • Print publication year: 2000
  • Online publication date: October 2009

8 - Origin and evolution of the grazing guild in Cenozoic New World terrestrial mammals



Today grasslands cover about 25% of the world's land surface and constitute an enormous food resource that is exploited by invertebrate and vertebrate grazers. Grazers are defined as herbivores with diets consisting predominantly (>90%) of grass and other associated low ground cover in grassland biomes (Janis and Ehrhardt 1988). In present-day ecosystems, grazing is a common-place feeding strategy. Although terrestrial herbivory can be documented in vertebrates over the past 300 million years since the Carboniferous (Sues and Reisz 1998; Reisz and Sues, this volume), the origin of the grazing guild in vertebrates is a relatively recent arrival on the global ecological landscape.

This chapter presents paleontological evidence that terrestrial grazing guilds have only existed since the middle Tertiary, about 35 million years ago. I will confine my discussion here to mammals because: (1) although in terms of biomass and diversity, invertebrate grazers (mostly insects) are potentially the largest component of terrestrial grazing guilds worldwide (Dyer et al. 1982), the fossil record of this group is relatively poor; and (2) extinct mammalian grazers generally have an exceedingly rich fossil record that can be used to understand the evolution of the grazing guild. Furthermore, recent studies of extinct mammalian grazers combine a diverse array of traditional morphological evidence along with some new techniques, including stable isotopic analyses. Together these techniques allow a better understanding of the origin and evolution of the grazing guild. This chapter will focus attention on the fossil record in the New World; however, the pattern described here also is generally applicable to the Old World.

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Evolution of Herbivory in Terrestrial Vertebrates
  • Online ISBN: 9780511549717
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