Skip to main content Accessibility help

A test of Sporormiella representation as a predictor of megaherbivore presence and abundance

  • Diana Raper (a1) (a2) and Mark Bush (a1)


Spores of the dung fungus Sporormiella have been suggested to indicate the presence, perhaps also the abundance of past megaherbivore populations. Nonetheless, basic studies demonstrating a correlation between Sporormiella concentration in lacustrine sediments and modern herbivore abundance are lacking. This study of Sporormiella representation in grazed and ungrazed landscapes provides supporting evidence for the application of Sporormiella as an indicator of megaherbivore presence and abundance in ancient landscapes. However, Sporormiella representation is spatially sensitive to the distance from the dung source. In lakes where Sporomiella are abundant in shoreline sediments, they decline sharply with increasing distance from the lake edge. Although this study provides supporting evidence for the application of Sporormiella as a proxy for herbivore presence and abundance, independent proxies should be applied in conjunction with Sporormiella to control for changes in lake size.


Corresponding author

*Corresponding author. College of Forestry, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA. Email Address:


Hide All
Ahmed, S.E., and Cain, R.F. Revisions of the genera Sporormia and Sporormiella . Canadian Journal of Botany 50, (1972). 419477.
Aptroot, A., and van Geel, B. Fungi of the colon of the Yukagir mammoth and from stratigraphically related permafrost samples. Review of Paleobotany and Palynology 141, (2006). 225230.
Barnosky, A.D., Koch, P.L., Feranec, R.S., Wing, S.L., and Shabel, A.B. Assessing the causes of late Pleistocene extinction on the continents. Science 306, (2004). 7075.
Blackford, J.J., and Innes, J.B. Linking current environments and processes to fungal spore assemblages: surface NPM data from woodland environments. Review of Paleobotany and Palynology 141, (2006). 179187.
Brenner, M., and Binford, M.W. Relationships between concentrations of sedimentary variables and trophic state in Florida lakes. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Science 45, (1988). 294300.
Burney, D.A., Robinson, G.S., and Burney, L.P. Sporormiella and the late Holocene extinctions in Madagascar. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 100, (2003). 1080010805.
Davis, O.K. Spores of the dung fungus Sporormiella: increased abundances in historic sediments and before Pleistocene megafaunal extinctions. Quaternary Research 28, (1987). 290294.
Davis, O.K., and Moratto, M.F. Evidence for a warm-dry early Holocene in the Western Sierra: pollen and plant macrofossil analysis of Dinkey and Exchequer Meadows. Madroño 35, (1988). 128145.
Davis, O.K., Shafer, D., (2002). Sporormiella fungal spores, a palynological means of detecting herbivore density. Proceedings of the “Faeces Facies Symposium.�.� Joint Meeting of AASP, BMS and NAMS; 2002 Sep 11–3; London.
Davis, O.K., and Shafer, D. Sporormiella fungal spores, a palynological means of detecting herbivore density. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 237, (2006). 4050.
Davis, O.K., Kolva, D.A., and Mehringer, P.J. Pollen analysis of Wildcat Lake, Whitman County, Washington: the last 100 years. Northwest Science 51, (1977). 1330.
Davis, O.K., Agenbroad, L., Martin, P.S., and Mead, J.I. The Pleistocene dung blanket of Bechan Cave, Utah. Special Publication of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History 8, (1984). 267282.
Davis, O.K., Heavly, R.H., and Foust, R.D. A comparison of historic and prehistoric vegetation change caused by man in Central Arizona. Assoication of Stratigraphic Palynologists Contribution Series 16, (1985). 6376.
Ebersohn, C., and Eicker, A. Determination of the coprophilous fungal fruit body successional phase and the delimitation of species association classes on dung substrates of African game animals. Botanical Bulletin Academy of Science 38, (1997). 183190.
Faegri, K., and Iverson, J. Textbook of Pollen Analysis. 4th Edition (1989). John Wiley & Sons, Chicester (England). 328
Graf, M., and Chmura, G. Development of modern analogues for natural, mowed, and grazed grasslands using pollen assemblages and coprophilous fungi. Review of Paleobotany and Palynology 141, (2006). 139149.
Grayson, D.K. Late Pleistocene mammalian extinctions in North America: taxonomy, chronology, and explanations. Journal of World Prehistory 5, (1991). 193231.
Gu, B., Schelske, C.L., and Brenner, M. Relationship between diment and plankton isotope ratios (d13C and d15N) and primary productivity in Florida Lakes. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Science (1996).
Martin, P.S. Prehistoric overkill. Martin, P.S., and Wright, H.E. Pleistocene Extinctions: The Search for a Cause. (1967). Yale University Press, New Haven, CT. 75120.
Martin, P.S., and Stuart, A.J. Mammoth extinction: two continents and Wrangel Island. Radiocarbon 37, (1995). 710.
Pirozynski, K.A., Carter, A., and Day, R.G. Fungal remains in Pleistocene ground squirrel dung from Yukon Territory, Canada. Quaternary Research 22, (1984). 375382.
Richardson, M.J. Diversity and occurrence of coprophilous fungi. Mycology Research 105, (2001). 387402.
Robinson, G., Burney, L.P., and Burney, D.A. Landscape paleoecology and megafaunal extinction in southeastern New York State. Ecological Monographs 75, (2005). 295315.
Stockmarr, J. Tablets with spores used in absolute pollen analysis. Pollen Spores 13, (1971). 615621.
Váňová, M., and Kubátová, A. Dung microcosms as another source of fungal biodiversity on areas with industrial deposits. Stránka 9, (2005). 121131.
West, G.J. A late Pleistocene–Holocene pollen record of vegetation change from Little Willow Lake, Lassen Volcanic National Park, California. Conference Proceedings: PACLIM (2003). 6580.



Full text views

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

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed