Study: European hippos shrank during cooler eras

Fossil study explores links between climate and evolution

A Hippopotamus madagascariensis skeleton with a modern hippopotamus skull.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — In a study that may help shape understanding of future climate change impacts, European researchers say that giant hippopotamuses that once wallowed in the banks of the Elbe River may have shrunk down to pymgy size during the Pleistocene era before driving them to warmer regions.

Reporting in the journal Boreas, the scientists reported on their findings after an extensive study of the fossil record.

“Species of hippo ranged across pre-historic Europe, including the giant Hippopotamus antiquus a huge animal which often weighed up to a tonne more than today’s African hippos,” said lead author Dr. Paul Mazza from the University of Florence. “While these giants ranged across Spain, Italy and Germany, ancestors of the modern Hippo, Hippopotamus amphibius, reached as far north as the British Isles.” Continue reading

Climate: New clues for ancient Great Basin lakes

Nevada’s Walker Lake is a remnant of one of the great inland lakes that covered parts of the Great Basin during the last glacial cooling period. Image courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

Glacial climate regime may have enhanced Southwest Monsoon

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Geologists and paleoclimatologists have long known that the great basins of the intermountain West were once filled with water, forming vast inland seas. At the peak of the last glacial cooling period, about 14,000 to 20,000 years ago as much as a quarter of Nevada and Utah were covered with water.

What’s not exactly clear is where and when the water came from, but a new study led by a Texas A&M researcher offers additional clues, suggesting that the additional moisture came from a powerful, enhanced summer monsoon.

First, the scientists set out to test the prevailing hypothesis that the water resulted from a shift in the winter storm track that now generally carries storm to the north of the Great Basin, into northern California, Washington and Oregon. Continue reading

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