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Ancient Bison Teeth Provide Window On Past Great Plains Climate, Vegetation
Newswise ^ | 8-7-2006

Posted on 08/08/2006 8:20:55 PM PDT by blam

Source: University of Washington
Released: Mon 07-Aug-2006, 15:10 ET

Ancient Bison Teeth Provide Window on Past Great Plains Climate, Vegetation

Scientists have devised a way to use the fossil teeth of ancient bison as a tool to reconstruct historic climate and vegetation changes in America's breadbasket, the Great Plains.

The third molar from a bison jawbone grows to 3 inches in length and has several times more surface area than a quarter.

Newswise — A University of Washington researcher has devised a way to use the fossil teeth of ancient bison as a tool to reconstruct historic climate and vegetation changes in America's breadbasket, the Great Plains.

The teeth hold evidence of the type of vegetation that grew in a particular location at a particular time, and that in turn provides information about climate fluctuations occurring on the plains, said Kathryn Hoppe, a UW acting assistant professor of Earth and space sciences.

"Bison eat mostly grass, so they provide a good way to measure grassland productivity," Hoppe said. "Much of the rangeland and farmland in this country was originally native grasslands, so if you want to measure how the productivity of agricultural lands has changed over time, bison seem like a good way to go."

Hoppe and colleagues Adina Paytan and Page Chamberlain of Stanford University found climate evidence in the enamel from third molars of bison, the equivalent to human wisdom teeth. Those teeth form after young bison no longer depend on mother's milk for nutrition, and so carry clearer signals of what types of grass the animals consumed.

The researchers used bison teeth collected in Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma. They pulverized enamel from tooth surfaces and dissolved samples in acid to release small amounts of carbon dioxide. Then they used a mass spectrometer to examine the ratio of the isotopes carbon-12 to carbon-13. Different grasses, those that grow in warm and cool seasons for example, have different isotope ratios.

The results provided a means to reconstruct temperature patterns for particular locations at particular times, Hoppe said. Tooth enamel also carries evidence of changes in carbon dioxide levels, which helps scientists to see how levels of that greenhouse gas changed over time.

Bison roamed North America from Alaska to Mexico going back 200,000 years. They were the most abundant herbivores following the last ice age until Europeans began to settle the continent. Because there were so many over such a large territory, Hoppe said, bison are an ideal means to study how climate and vegetation fluctuated over thousands of years.

Scientists know there have been major periods of climate change on the Great Plains numerous times in the past, typically on a much greater scale than the conditions that created the Dust Bowl in the 1930s. But questions remain about how sensitive the plains are to climate change, and how much of a change might trigger their conversion to desert.

"We know from looking at evidence of past climatic conditions that we currently are in a warm period and that climates have changed dramatically. There have been times in the past, for example, when the climate was so dry that northern Nebraska was a desert with sand dunes. The Sand Hills are a remnant of that time," Hoppe said.

"The better we understand what happened in the past, the better we can predict what will happen in the future," she said.

The work also provides a way to test current climate models, she said. As scientists develop a more precise understanding of past climate, they can add those conditions as variables to see if the models correctly show what happened. If the models are successful in correctly showing past climate, there is much greater confidence that they are accurate in showing what future climate is likely to be.

Hoppe, who began the work while a research associate at Stanford and continued it at the UW, is lead author of a paper describing the work that appears in the August edition of the journal Geology. The work was funded in part by the National Science Foundation.


TOPICS: News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: ancient; bison; climate; climatechange; environment; godsgravesglyphs; great; past; plains; provide; teeth; vegetation; window

1 posted on 08/08/2006 8:20:57 PM PDT by blam
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To: SunkenCiv

GGG Ping.


2 posted on 08/08/2006 8:21:44 PM PDT by blam
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To: blam
Good post.

Stable isotopes (C13, N15, etc.) can lead to all sorts of good information.

3 posted on 08/08/2006 8:34:25 PM PDT by Coyoteman (I love the sound of beta decay in the morning!)
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To: Coyoteman
"Good post."

Thanks. I thought this would be one that no-one read, lol.

4 posted on 08/08/2006 8:36:49 PM PDT by blam
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To: Coyoteman
There was an earlier post that questioned the accuracy of our half-life dating system. It was cooled to near absolute zero and likely false but should be considered. no link. my apologies.
5 posted on 08/08/2006 8:41:00 PM PDT by kinoxi
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To: blam
Doesn't it just kill you when the global warming nuts bellyache about "all those cattle " in the West releasing horrific amounts of methane into the environmennt????

These bozos never stop to ask how much methane was released by 40 million LARGE sized bison tooting around the range.

6 posted on 08/08/2006 8:42:25 PM PDT by cookcounty (Army Vet, Army Dad)
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To: blam
"Good post."

Thanks. I thought this would be one that no-one read, lol.

Stable isotopes are good for establishing prehistoric diets.

On the west coast, we know of one early individual who had a high N15 to C13 ratio, suggesting an amazing 92.5% marine diet; and not just marine, but sea mammals!

In late prehistoric times the marine portion of the diet in this same area had dropped to about 10%.

Science has given us some wonderful tools for studying the past.

7 posted on 08/08/2006 8:45:08 PM PDT by Coyoteman (I love the sound of beta decay in the morning!)
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To: blam

I'm a Buffalo lover.

We had some on the college campus.


8 posted on 08/08/2006 8:48:20 PM PDT by Ernest_at_the_Beach (History is soon Forgotten,)
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To: blam

No read? Some of us like FR for the articles not found without specific searching. This one made me feel better about flossing only once weekly while using flouride swishing daily (no further cavities in 20 years and all teeth still in place). So I glow in the dark and that prehensile tail itches while emerging...


9 posted on 08/08/2006 8:50:05 PM PDT by NewRomeTacitus
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To: kinoxi
There was an earlier post that questioned the accuracy of our half-life dating system. It was cooled to near absolute zero and likely false but should be considered. no link. my apologies.

Stable isotopes (C13, N15), as discussed in the article, are entirely different from radioactive isotopes (C14, etc.).

The study that used extreme cooling dealt with alpha decay, not beta or gamma decay. Also, cooling of that magnitude is not likely to occur naturally on earth.

Given this, I don't think this study has any implications for radiometric dating.

10 posted on 08/08/2006 8:50:13 PM PDT by Coyoteman (I love the sound of beta decay in the morning!)
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To: Coyoteman; blam
Stable isotopes are good for establishing prehistoric diets.

I am uneducated in this knowlege....how is it possible ?

11 posted on 08/08/2006 8:51:14 PM PDT by Ernest_at_the_Beach (History is soon Forgotten,)
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To: Coyoteman
"On the west coast, we know of one early individual who had a high N15 to C13 ratio, suggesting an amazing 92.5% marine diet; and not just marine, but sea mammals!"

"In late prehistoric times the marine portion of the diet in this same area had dropped to about 10%."

Any idea why?

12 posted on 08/08/2006 8:51:35 PM PDT by blam
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To: Coyoteman

The implications of the earlier article remain. Would you like to explain the decay mechanism to me?


13 posted on 08/08/2006 8:54:36 PM PDT by kinoxi
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To: blam
Interesting research. Although I don't know Hoppe, I would bet I know a few folks that do. I'll see if I can find out some more info.
14 posted on 08/08/2006 8:57:33 PM PDT by stormer (Get your bachelors, masters, or doctorate now at home in your spare time!)
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To: Ernest_at_the_Beach
Stable isotopes are good for establishing prehistoric diets.

I am uneducated in this knowlege....how is it possible ?

Quick answer: Stable isotopes can be determined for a variety of plant and animal foods. The raw numbers and ratios for C13 and N15 differ significantly among the various foods.

People who rely heavily on particular foods tend toward those stable isotope readings and ratios.

We can determine the readings from various analyses, and make good estimates of prehistoric diets.

15 posted on 08/08/2006 8:59:34 PM PDT by Coyoteman (I love the sound of beta decay in the morning!)
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To: blam
"On the west coast, we know of one early individual who had a high N15 to C13 ratio, suggesting an amazing 92.5% marine diet; and not just marine, but sea mammals!"

"In late prehistoric times the marine portion of the diet in this same area had dropped to about 10%."

Any idea why?

Quick answer: In that area, as populations increased and subsequently changed, partially through migration, the diet had to expand to include large amounts of terrestrial foods. The earliest adaptations to marine resources gave way to largely terrestrial diets. It took thousands of years.

16 posted on 08/08/2006 9:02:47 PM PDT by Coyoteman (I love the sound of beta decay in the morning!)
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To: kinoxi
The implications of the earlier article remain. Would you like to explain the decay mechanism to me?

Quick answer: I don't have time tonight. You can google up some good information though.

The alpha decay discussed in the article is significantly different than the beta and gamma decays. Radiocarbon dating, for example, uses beta decay.

In any case, it looks like the accelerated alpha decay requires conditions never present on earth prior to modern technology, so I see no implications for radiometric dating.

17 posted on 08/08/2006 9:05:58 PM PDT by Coyoteman (I love the sound of beta decay in the morning!)
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To: Coyoteman
The emission is not the decay mechanism.
18 posted on 08/08/2006 9:08:21 PM PDT by kinoxi
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To: kinoxi
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/08/01/faster_decay/
19 posted on 08/08/2006 9:17:26 PM PDT by Coyoteman (I love the sound of beta decay in the morning!)
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To: Coyoteman
One as knowledgeable as yourself would surely know that even protons decay under many current theories. The reality is that no one has been measuring for long enough. Read up on Pioneer spacecraft (anomalies) and tell me what you think. No lengthy measurement by human theory has yet to pan out.
20 posted on 08/08/2006 9:26:15 PM PDT by kinoxi
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hey, still can't compare with this one:

Scientists: Bison in Illinois earlier (aren't you relieved?)
South Carolina homepage (thestate.com) | Tue, Aug. 30, 2005 | Associated Press
Posted on 09/03/2005 10:17:31 AM EDT by SunkenCiv
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-chat/1476377/posts


21 posted on 08/08/2006 9:55:08 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (updated my FR profile on Thursday, July 27, 2006. https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
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To: blam; FairOpinion; StayAt HomeMother; Ernest_at_the_Beach; 24Karet; 3AngelaD; ...
Thanks Blam.

To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list. Thanks.
Please FREEPMAIL me if you want on or off the
"Gods, Graves, Glyphs" PING list or GGG weekly digest
-- Archaeology/Anthropology/Ancient Cultures/Artifacts/Antiquities, etc.
Gods, Graves, Glyphs (alpha order)

22 posted on 08/08/2006 9:55:28 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (updated my FR profile on Thursday, July 27, 2006. https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
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To: blam

Good post. Thanks.


23 posted on 08/09/2006 6:33:36 AM PDT by ThanhPhero (di hanh huong den La Vang)
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To: blam

Speaking of climate, the garden is frozen this morning. There was a late frost this spring and maybe 15 good sunshine days all summer. Not much of a growing season up north.


24 posted on 08/09/2006 8:03:39 AM PDT by RightWhale (Repeal the law of the excluded middle)
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To: RightWhale
"Speaking of climate, the garden is frozen this morning. There was a late frost this spring and maybe 15 good sunshine days all summer. Not much of a growing season up north."

Must be global cooling.

25 posted on 08/09/2006 10:12:34 AM PDT by blam
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 GGG managers are SunkenCiv, StayAt HomeMother & Ernest_at_the_Beach
Just updating the GGG info, not sending a general distribution.

To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list.


26 posted on 08/12/2012 8:39:24 AM PDT by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
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