Degree Name

MS (Master of Science)



Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Joshua X Samuels

Committee Members

Blaine W Schubert, Andrew Joyner


Continental scale studies on ungulate crown heights in relation to climate and habitat changes have revealed a correlation between increasing hypsodonty and a shift to more arid environments. Small mammals have been shown to adapt to changing habitats millions of years earlier than larger mammals. In this study I examined fossil localities throughout the last 37 Ma across North America. Diversity of rodents and lagomorphs were analyzed through this time period, with examination of community structure characterized by relative percentages of taxa with different crown heights. Overall, a decrease in precipitation and temperature was found across North America from 37 Ma to the present. The Mid Miocene Climatic Optimum (around 15 Ma) was an pronounced period of warming, comparable to the warming we see today. Nebraska and California showed increases in crown height before Oregon. Overall, these findings help demonstrate how communities react at different time scales to climate change.

Document Type

Thesis - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.