Abstract

New stratigraphic and paleontological information from the McCullough Peaks, northern Bighorn Basin, Wyoming, is incorporated into an isotaphonomic faunal database and used to investigate the impact of the latest Paleocene thermal maximum and coincident earliest Wasatchian immigration event on local mammalian community structure. Surface collections from Willwood Formation overbank deposits provide taphonomically consistent and stratigraphically resolved samples of the medium- to large-sized components of underlying mammalian communities. Rarefaction shows that the immigration event caused an abrupt and dramatic increase in species richness and evenness. After this initial increase, diversity tapered off to more typical Wasatchian levels that were still higher than those in the preceding Clarkforkian. Wasatchian immigrants were rapidly incorporated into the new community organization, representing ∼20% of the taxa and ∼50% of the individuals. Immigrant taxa generally had larger body sizes and more herbivorous and frugivorous dietary habits compared to endemic taxa, causing significant turnover in body-size structure and trophic structure. There was a significant short-term body-size decrease in many lineages that may have been prompted by the elevated temperatures and/or decreased latitudinal thermal gradients during the latest Paleocene thermal maximum. Rapid short-term climatic change (transient climates) and associated biotic dispersal can have abrupt and long-lasting effects on mammalian community evolution.

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