Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Summary of the Snowmastodon Project Special Volume A high-elevation, multi-proxy biotic and environmental record of MIS 6–4 from the Ziegler Reservoir fossil site, Snowmass Village, Colorado, USA

  • Ian M. Miller (a1), Jeffrey S. Pigati (a2), R. Scott Anderson (a3), Kirk R. Johnson (a1) (a4), Shannon A. Mahan (a5), Thomas A. Ager (a2), Richard G. Baker (a6), Maarten Blaauw (a7), Jordon Bright (a8), Peter M. Brown (a9), Bruce Bryant (a2), Zachary T. Calamari (a10) (a11), Paul E. Carrara (a2), Michael D. Cherney (a10) (a11), John R. Demboski (a1), Scott A. Elias (a12), Daniel C. Fisher (a10) (a11), Harrison J. Gray (a5), Danielle R. Haskett (a13), Jeffrey S. Honke (a2), Stephen T. Jackson (a14) (a15), Gonzalo Jiménez-Moreno (a16), Douglas Kline (a1), Eric M. Leonard (a17), Nathaniel A. Lifton (a18), Carol Lucking (a1), H. Gregory McDonald (a19), Dane M. Miller (a14), Daniel R. Muhs (a2), Stephen E. Nash (a1), Cody Newton (a20), James B. Paces (a21), Lesley Petrie (a22), Mitchell A. Plummer (a23), David F. Porinchu (a13), Adam N. Rountrey (a11) (a24), Eric Scott (a25), Joseph J.W. Sertich (a1), Saxon E. Sharpe (a26), Gary L. Skipp (a2), Laura E. Strickland (a2), Richard K. Stucky (a1), Robert S. Thompson (a2) and Jim Wilson (a27)...

In North America, terrestrial records of biodiversity and climate change that span Marine Oxygen Isotope Stage (MIS) 5 are rare. Where found, they provide insight into how the coupling of the ocean–atmosphere system is manifested in biotic and environmental records and how the biosphere responds to climate change. In 2010–2011, construction at Ziegler Reservoir near Snowmass Village, Colorado (USA) revealed a nearly continuous, lacustrine/wetland sedimentary sequence that preserved evidence of past plant communities between ~140 and 55 ka, including all of MIS 5. At an elevation of 2705 m, the Ziegler Reservoir fossil site also contained thousands of well-preserved bones of late Pleistocene megafauna, including mastodons, mammoths, ground sloths, horses, camels, deer, bison, black bear, coyotes, and bighorn sheep. In addition, the site contained more than 26,000 bones from at least 30 species of small animals including salamanders, otters, muskrats, minks, rabbits, beavers, frogs, lizards, snakes, fish, and birds. The combination of macro- and micro-vertebrates, invertebrates, terrestrial and aquatic plant macrofossils, a detailed pollen record, and a robust, directly dated stratigraphic framework shows that high-elevation ecosystems in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado are climatically sensitive and varied dramatically throughout MIS 5.

Corresponding author
Corresponding author.E-mail address: (I.M. Miller).
Hide All
AdamD.P., and RobinsonS.W. Palynology of two Upper Quaternary cores from Clear Lake, Lake County, California. U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper. 1363, (1988). (86 pp.)
AdamD.P., SimsJ.D., and ThrockmortonC.K. 130,000-yr continuous pollen record from Clear Lake, Lake County, California. Geology 9, (1981). 373377.
AndersonR.S., Jiménez-MorenoG., AgerT., and PorinchuD. High-elevation paleoenvironmental change during MIS 6–4 in the central Rockies of Colorado as determined from pollen analysis. Quaternary Research 82, (2014). 542552. (in this volume)
BakerR.G. Sangamonian (?) and Wisconsinan paleoenvironments in Yellowstone National Park. Geological Society of America Bulletin 97, (1986). 717736.
BalcoG., StoneJ.O., LiftonN.A., and DunaiT.J. A complete and easily accessible means of calculating surface exposure ages or erosion rates from 10Be and 26Al measurements. Quaternary Geochronology 3, (2008). 174195.
BellC.J., LundeliusE.L.Jr., BarnoskyA.D., GrahamR.W., LindsayE.H., RuezD.R.Jr., SemkenH.A.Jr., WebbS.D., and ZakrzewskiR.J. The Blancan, Irvingtonian, and Rancholabrean mammal ages. WoodburneM.O. Late Cretaceous and Cenozoic Mammals of North America. (2004). Columbia University Press, New York. 232314.
BergerA.L., and LoutreM.F. Insolation values for the climate of the last 10 million years. Quaternary Science Reviews 10, (1991). 297317.
BlaauwM., and ChristenJ.A. Flexible paleoclimate age–depth models using an autoregressive gamma process. Bayesian Analysis 6, (2011). 457474.
BrownP.M., NashS.E., and KlineD. Identification and dendrochronology of wood found at the Ziegler Reservoir fossil site, Colorado, USA. Quaternary Research 82, (2014). 575579. (in this volume)
BryantB. (1972). Geologic map of the Highland Peak quadrangle. Pitkin County, Colorado., U.S. Geological Survey Map GC-932, 1:24,000 scale.
CAPE-Last Interglacial Project Members Last Interglacial Arctic warmth confirms polar amplification of climate change. Quaternary Science Reviews 25, (2006). 13831400.
CoplenT.B., WinogradI.J., LandwehrJ.M., and RiggsA.C. 500,000-Year stable carbon isotopic record from vein calcite in Devils Hole, Nevada. Science 263, (1994). 361365.
CutlerK.B., EdwardsR.L., TaylorF.W., ChengH., AdkinsJ., GallupC.D., CutlerP.M., BurrG.S., and BloomA.L. Rapid sea-level fall and deep-ocean temperature change since the last interglacial period. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 206, (2003). 253271.
EliasS.A. Environmental interpretation of fossil insect assemblages from MIS 5 at Ziegler Reservoir, Snowmass Village, Colorado. Quaternary Research 82, (2014). 592603. (in this volume)
EPICA community members Eight glacial cycles from an Antarctic ice core. Nature 429, (2004). 623628.
FawcettP.J., WerneJ.P., AndersonR.S., HeikoopJ.M., BrownE.T., BerkeM.A., SmithS., GoffF., HurleyL., Cisneros-DozalL.M., SchoutenS., Sinninghe DamstéJ.S., HuangY., ToneyJ., FessendenJ., WoldeGabrielG., AtudoreiV., GeissmanJ.W., and AllenC.D. Extended megadroughts in the southwestern United States during Pleistocene interglacials. Nature 470, (2011). 518521.
FisherD.C., CherneyM.D., NewtonC., RountreyA.N., CalamariZ.T., StuckyR., LuckingC., and PetrieL. Taxonomic overview and tusk growth analyses of Ziegler Reservoir proboscideans. Quaternary Research 82, (2014). 518532. (in this volume)
GrahamR.W., and LundeliusJ.E.L. FAUNMAP II: New Data for North America with a Temporal Extension for the Blancan, Irvingtonian and Early Rancholabrean. (2010). ( )
HaskettD.R., and PorinchuD.F. A quantitative midge-based reconstruction of mean July air temperature from a high-elevation site in central Colorado, USA, for MIS 6 and 5. Quaternary Research 82, (2014). 580591. (in this volume)
HeusserL.E. Pollen stratigraphy and paleoecologic interpretation of the 160-K.Y. record from Santa Barbara Basin, Hole 893A. KennettJ.P., BaldaufJ.G., and LyleM. Proceedings of the Ocean Drilling Program, Scientific Results. (1995). 265277.
HeusserL.E. Rapid oscillations in western North America vegetation and climate during oxygen isotope stage 5 inferred from pollen data from Santa Barbara Basin (Hole 893A). Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 161, (2000). 407421.
HeusserL.E., and OppoD. Millennial- and orbital-scale climate variability in southeastern United States and in the subtropical Atlantic during marine isotope stage 5: evidence from pollen and isotopes in ODP site 1059. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 214, (2003). 483490.
Jiménez-MorenoG., and AndersonR.S. Pollen and macrofossil evidence of late Pleistocene and Holocene tree line fluctuations from an alpine lake in Colorado, USA. The Holocene 23, (2012). 6877.
Jiménez-MorenoG., AndersonR.S., and FawcettP.J. Orbital- and millennial-scale vegetation and climate changes of the past 225 ka from Bear Lake, Utah-Idaho (USA). Quaternary Science Reviews 26, (2007). 17131724.
Jiménez-MorenoG., AndersonR.S., AtudoreiV., and ToneyJ.L. A high-resolution record of vegetation, climate, and fire regimes in the mixed conifer forest of northern Colorado (USA). Geological Society of America Bulletin 123, (2011). 240254.
JohnsonK.R., and MillerI.M. Digging Snowmastodon: Discovering an Ice Age World in the Colorado Rockies. (2012). Denver Museum of Nature and Science and People's Press, Denver.
KaufmanD.S., BrightJ., DeanW.E., RosenbaumJ.G., MoserK., AndersonR.S., ColmanS.M., HeilC.W.J., Jimenez-MorenoG., ReheisM.C., and SimmonsK.R. A quarter-million years of paleoenvironmental change at Bear Lake, Utah and Idaho. Geological Society of America Special Papers 450, (2009). 311351.
KeigwinL.D., CurryW.B., LehmanS.J., and JohnsonS. The role of the deep ocean in North Atlantic climate change between 70 and 130 kyr ago. Nature 371, (1994). 323325.
KlemanJ., JanssonK., de AngelisH., StroevenA.P., HattestrandC., AlmG., and GlasserN. North American ice sheet build-up during the last glacial cycle, 115–21 kyr. Quaternary Science Reviews 29, (2010). 20362051.
KrellF.T. Pleistocene dung beetles from MIS 5 at Ziegler Reservoir, Snowmass Village, Colorado (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae: Aphodiinae). Denver Museum of Nature and Science Annals 5, (2014). 112.
KuklaG.J., BenderM.L., de BeaulieuJ.-L., BondG., BroeckerW.S., CleveringaP., GavinJ.E., HerbertT.D., ImbrieJ., JouzelJ., KeigwinL.D., KnudsenK.-L., McManusJ.F., MerktJ., MuhsD.R., MullerH., PooreR.Z., PorterS.C., SeretG., ShackletonN.J., TurnerC., TzedakisP.C., and WinogradI.J. Last interglacial climates. Quaternary Research 58, (2002). 213.
LaskarJ., RobutelP., JoutelF., GastineauM., CorreiaA.C.M., and LevrardB. A long term numerical solution for the insolation quantities of the Earth. Astronomy and Astrophysics 428, (2004). 261285.
LeonardE.A., PlummerM.A., and CarraraP.E. Numerical modeling of the Snowmass Creek paleoglacier, Colorado, and climate in the Rocky Mountains during the Bull Lake glaciation (MIS 6). Quaternary Research 82, (2014). 533541. (in this volume)
LicciardiJ.M., and PierceK.L. Cosmogenic exposure age chronologies of Pinedale and Bull Lake glaciations in greater Yellowstone and the Teton Range, USA. Quaternary Science Reviews 27, (2008). 814831.
LisieckiL.E., and RaymoM.E. A Pliocene–Pleistocene stack of 57 globally distributed benthic δ18O records. Paleoceanography 20, (2005). 117.
LitwinR.J., SmootJ.P., PavichM.J., MarkewichH.W., BrookG., and DurikaN.J. 100,000-year-long terrestrial record of millennial-scale linkage between eastern North America mid-latitude paleovegetation shifts and Greenland ice-core oxygen isotope trends. Quaternary Research 80, (2013). 291315.
LoutreM.F., and BergerA. Stage 11 as an analogue for the present interglacial. Global and Planetary Change 36, (2003). 209217.
LuckingC., JohnsonK.R., PigatiJ.S., and MillerI.M. Primary Mapping and Stratigraphic Data and Field Methods for the Snowmastodon Project. (2012). Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Denver, CO. 102
LyleM., HeusserL.E., HerbertT., MixA., and BarronJ. Interglacial theme and variations: 500 k.y. of orbital forcing and associated responses from the terrestrial and marine biosphere, U.S. Pacific Northwest. Geology 29, (2001). 11151118.
MahanS.A., GrayH.J., PigatiJ.S., WilsonJ., LiftonN.A., PacesJ.B., and BlaauwM. A geochronologic framework for the Ziegler Reservior fossil site, Snowmass Village, Colorado. Quaternary Research 82, (2014). 490503. (in this volume)
MartinsonD.G., PisiasN.G., HaysJ.D., ImbrieJ., MooreT.C.J., and ShackletonN.J. Age dating and the orbital theory of the ice ages: development of a high-resolution 0 to 300,000-year chronostratigraphy. Quaternary Research 27, (1987). 129.
MillerD.M., MillerI.M., and JacksonS.T. Biogeography of Pleistocene conifer species from the Ziegler Reservoir fossil site, Snowmass Village, Colorado. Quaternary Research 82, (2014). 567574. (in this volume)
MuhsD.R., AgerT.A., and BegétJ.E. Vegetation and paleoclimate of the last interglacial Period, central Alaska. Quaternary Science Reviews 20, (2001). 4161.
MuhsD.R., SimmonsK.R., and SteinkeB. Timing and warmth of the Last Interglacial Period: new U-series evidence from Hawaii and Bermuda and a new fossil compilation for North America. Quaternary Science Reviews 21, (2002). 13551383.
PeteetD., RindD., and KuklaG.J. Wisconsin ice-sheet initiation: Milankovitch forcing, paleoclimatic data, and global climate modeling. Geological Society of America Special Papers 270, (1992). 5370.
PigatiJ.S., MillerI.M., JohnsonK.R., HonkeJ.S., CarraraP.E., MuhsD.R., SkippG., and BryantB. Geologic setting and stratigraphy of the Ziegler Reservoir fossil site, Snowmass Village, Colorado. Quaternary Research 82, (2014). 477489. (in this volume)
PinsofJ.D. Current status of North American Sangamonian local faunas and vertebrate taxa. StewartK.M., and SeymourK.L. Palaeoecology and Palaeoenvironments of Late Cenozoic Mammals. (1996). University of Toronto Press, Toronto. 156190.
PinsofJ.D. A Late Pleistocene Sangamonian vertebrate fauna from eastern Texas. Texas Journal of Science 491, (1997). 322.
PisiasN.G., MixA.C., and HeusserL.E. Millennial scale climate variability of the northweast Pacific Ocean and northwest North America based on radiolaria and pollen. Quaternary Science Reviews 20, (2001). 15611567.
ReheisM.C., BrightJ., LundS.P., MillerD.M., SkippG., and FleckR.J. A half-million-year record of paleoclimate from the Lake Manix core, Mojave Desert, California. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 365–366, (2012). 1137.
RohlingE.J., BraunK., GrantK., KuceraM., RobertsA.P., SiddallM., and TrommerG. Comparison between Holocene and marine isotope stage-11 sea-level histories. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 291, (2010). 97105.
Sánchez GoñiM.F., EynaudF., and ShackletonN.J. High resolution palynological record off the Iberian margin: direct land–sea correlation of the Last Interglacial complex. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 171, (1999). 123137.
SchererR.P., BohatyS.M., DunbarR.B., EsperO., FloresJ.-A., GersondeR., HarwoodD.M., RobertsA.P., and TavianiM. Antarctic records of precession-paced insolation-driven warming during early Pleistocene marine isotope stage 31. Geophysical Research Letters 35, (2008). (L03505)
ScottW.E., PierceK.L., BradburyJ.P., and ForesterR.M. Revised Quaternary stratigraphy and chronology in the American Falls area, southeastern Idaho. BonnichsenB., and BreckenridgeR.M. Cenozoic Geology of Idaho. (1982). Idaho Bureau of Mines and Geology Bulletin, Moscow, ID. 581595.
SertichJ.J.W., StuckyR., McDonaldH.G., NewtonC., FisherD.C., ScottE., DemboskiJ.R., LuckingC., McHorseB.K., and DavisE.B. High-elevation late Pleistocene (MIS 6–5) vertebrate faunas from the Ziegler Reservoir fossil site, Snowmass Village, Colorado. Quaternary Research 82, (2014). 504517. (in this volume)
SharpeS.E., and BrightJ. A high-elevation MIS 5 hydrologic record using mollusks and ostracodes from Snowmass Village, Colorado, USA. Quaternary Research 82, (2014). 604617. (in this volume)
StricklandL.E., BakerR.G., ThompsonR.S., and MillerD.M. Last interglacial plant macrofossils and climates from Ziegler Reservoir, Snowmass Village, Colorado, USA. Quaternary Research 82, (2014). 553566. (in this volume)
TzedakisP.C. The MIS 11–MIS 1 analogy, southern European vegetation, atmospheric methane and the “early anthropogenic hypothesis”. Climate of the Past 6, (2010). 131144.
WhitlockC., and BartleinP.J. Vegetation and climate change in northwest America during the past 125 kyr. Nature 388, (1997). 5761.
WilliamsJ.W., and JacksonS.T. Novel climates, no-analog plant communities, and ecological surprises: past and future. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 5, (2007). 475482.
WilliamsJ.W., ShumanB.N., WebbT.III, BartleinP.J., and LeducP.L. Late-Quaternary vegetation dynamics in North America: scaling from taxa to biomes. Ecological Monographs 74, (2004). 309334.
WinogradI.J., CoplenT.B., LandwehrJ.M., RiggsA.C., LudwigK.R., SzaboB.J., KolesarP.T., and ReveszK.M. Continuous 500,000-year climate record from vein calcite in Devils Hole, Nevada. Science 258, (1992). 255260.
WoolfendenW.B.A. 180,000-Year record from Owens Lake, CA: terrestrial vegetation change on orbital scales. Quaternary Research 59, (2003). 430444.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Quaternary Research
  • ISSN: 0033-5894
  • EISSN: 1096-0287
  • URL: /core/journals/quaternary-research
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Type Description Title
Supplementary Materials

Miller et al. supplementary material
Supplementary Material

 Unknown (1.9 MB)
1.9 MB


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 8 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 98 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 20th January 2017 - 20th October 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.