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Paleobiology of Pleistocene Proboscideans

Authors
  • Fisher, Daniel C.
Type
Published Article
Journal
Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences
Publisher
Annual Reviews
Publication Date
May 30, 2018
Volume
46
Pages
229–260
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1146/annurev-earth-060115-012437
Source
Annual Reviews
Keywords
License
Yellow

Abstract

The paleobiology of Pleistocene proboscideans plays a pivotal role in understanding their history and in answering fundamental questions involving their interactions with other taxa, including humans. Much of our view of proboscidean paleobiology is influenced by analogies with extant elephants. However, a wealth of information is available for reconstructing the paleobiology of ancient proboscideans using data from fossil specimens and preservational settings. Remarkable opportunities include permafrost-derived specimens with preserved soft tissue, intestinal contents with direct evidence of diet, and compositional and structural profiles with subannual temporal resolution archived in appositional systems such as proboscidean tusks. New information on diets and local climates puts our understanding of proboscidean paleoecology on a firmer foundation, but the greatest prospects for new insight spring from life history data now being retrieved from accelerator mass spectrometry–dated fossil material. Interaction between humans and proboscideans has been a critical factor in the history of both groups.

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