Abstract

The giant flightless terror bird Titanis walleri is known from Florida and Texas during the late Neogene. The age of T. walleri is problematic because this taxon co-occurs with temporally mixed (i.e., time-averaged) faunas at two key sites. Thus, prior to this study, T. walleri from the Santa Fe River, Florida (type locality), was either as old as late Pliocene (ca. 2.2 Ma) or as young as latest Pleistocene (ca. 15 ka). Likewise, T. walleri from the Nueces River, Texas, was either early Pliocene (ca. 5 Ma) or latest Pleistocene (ca. 15 ka). In order to better resolve this age range, the rare earth element (REE) patterns of T. walleri from the Santa Fe River, Florida, were compared to two biochronologically distinctive groups (late Pliocene versus late Pleistocene) of fossil mammals from the same locality. Similarly, the REE patterns of T. walleri from Texas were compared to two groups (early Pliocene versus latest Pleistocene) of fossil mammals from the same locality. The REE patterns of T. walleri from Florida are indistinguishable from those of the co-occurring late Pliocene mammals. Likewise, the REE pattern of T. walleri from Texas is indistinguishable from those of the co-occurring early Pliocene mammals. Given these REE constraints, the revised age of T. walleri is early Pliocene in Texas (ca. 5 Ma) and late Pliocene (ca. 2.2–1.8 Ma) in Florida. As such, T. walleri is interpreted as an early immigrant during the Great American Interchange prior to the formation of the Isthmian land bridge. No evidence currently exists for Pleistocene T. walleri in North America.

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