Project Title

Community Structure Analysis of Mammals Found at the Gray Fossil Site, TN

Authors' Affiliations

Sarah Clark, Department of Geosciences, College of Arts and Sciences, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN. Joshua X Samuels, Department of Geosciences, College of Arts and Sciences, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN.

Location

Culp Forum 311

Start Date

4-6-2022 1:00 PM

End Date

4-6-2022 2:40 PM

Faculty Sponsor’s Department

Geosciences

Name of Project's Faculty Sponsor

Joshua Samuels

Classification of First Author

Graduate Student-Master’s

Competition Type

Competitive

Type

Oral Presentation

Project's Category

Paleobiology

Abstract or Artist's Statement

The early Pliocene age Gray Fossil Site (GFS) is a fossil site that preserves diverse fauna and flora and represents one of only a few sites of its age in eastern North America. The assemblage of fauna found at GFS is unique compared to what has been found at other contemporaneous fossil sites across the continent. While studies of the fauna and flora have helped us to understand the ecosystem at GFS, detailed study of the diverse mammal community will help us better understand this unique site.

Studying mammalian community structures at fossil sites can provide an abundance of information about the past such as, ecological inferences and climate conditions. To understand the paleoenvironment at GFS, I have gathered data from twenty modern communities and five well-known contemporaneous sites. Mammal species from each of these 26 sites have been categorized by body size, locomotor mode, and cheek tooth crown height to characterize the niches occupied by each species. Proportions of species within categories have been compared and analyzed across modern and fossil sites using discriminant function analysis (DFA). Results of the DFA demonstrate that modern communities with different climates and habitats can be distinguished based on the body size, locomotion, and cheek tooth crown heights of mammals living there. Moreover, functions can be used to infer conditions of past sites. Species diversity within categories was also compared across all sites. Results show that GFS has more brachydont and scansorial species present, and fewer cursorial species than occur at other contemporaneous sites. The results of the discriminant functional analysis indicate that the GFS community structure is most similar to modern temperate forest regions of the Himalayan Mountains in China and modern Washington Co., TN. Proportions of brachydont, gliding, and scansorial species appear to be driving variables behind these results.

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Apr 6th, 1:00 PM Apr 6th, 2:40 PM

Community Structure Analysis of Mammals Found at the Gray Fossil Site, TN

Culp Forum 311

The early Pliocene age Gray Fossil Site (GFS) is a fossil site that preserves diverse fauna and flora and represents one of only a few sites of its age in eastern North America. The assemblage of fauna found at GFS is unique compared to what has been found at other contemporaneous fossil sites across the continent. While studies of the fauna and flora have helped us to understand the ecosystem at GFS, detailed study of the diverse mammal community will help us better understand this unique site.

Studying mammalian community structures at fossil sites can provide an abundance of information about the past such as, ecological inferences and climate conditions. To understand the paleoenvironment at GFS, I have gathered data from twenty modern communities and five well-known contemporaneous sites. Mammal species from each of these 26 sites have been categorized by body size, locomotor mode, and cheek tooth crown height to characterize the niches occupied by each species. Proportions of species within categories have been compared and analyzed across modern and fossil sites using discriminant function analysis (DFA). Results of the DFA demonstrate that modern communities with different climates and habitats can be distinguished based on the body size, locomotion, and cheek tooth crown heights of mammals living there. Moreover, functions can be used to infer conditions of past sites. Species diversity within categories was also compared across all sites. Results show that GFS has more brachydont and scansorial species present, and fewer cursorial species than occur at other contemporaneous sites. The results of the discriminant functional analysis indicate that the GFS community structure is most similar to modern temperate forest regions of the Himalayan Mountains in China and modern Washington Co., TN. Proportions of brachydont, gliding, and scansorial species appear to be driving variables behind these results.