Speaker Series 2018: Eocene Vertebrate Fauna and Flora in Canada’s High Arctic

Eocene sediments for the Eureka Sound Group in Canada’s Arctic Archipelago preserve evidence of lush rain forests. The Eocene Epoch, 56 – 33.9 million years , was characterized by the rapid diversification of mammals. Alligators, turtles, birds and a large diversity of mammals, including early primates, tapirs, and hippo-like Coryphodon, inhabited the rain forests of the Eocene. These ecosystems reflect a greenhouse world and may be our best means to predict what environmental changes are in store for the future Arctic if current climate change goes unchecked.

In her presentation, Dr. Jaelyn Eberle, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, discusses the historical and geographic context of Arctic fossil localities and provides an overview of Eocene Arctic vertebrate animals and plants, and the environments they lived in. Dr. Eberle and her colleagues’ research suggests that several climate-sensitive animals, including alligators, turtles, and sharks, had past environmental tolerances greater than their living descendants. Consequently, there is a need to test the adaptability of these animals to future climate change.

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