Title

Pre-Wisconsinan Mammals From Jamaica and Models of Late Quaternary Extinction in the Greater Antilles

Document Type

Article

Department

Biology (CMC), WM Keck Science (CMC), Biology (Pitzer), WM Keck Science (Pitzer), Biology (Scripps), WM Keck Science (Scripps), WM Keck Science

Publication Date

1989

Abstract

The vertebrate fauna recovered from indurated conglomerates at Wallingford Roadside Cave (central Jamaica) is shown to be in excess of 100,000 yr old according to uranium series and electron spin resonance dating. The Wallingford local fauna is therefore pre-Wisconsinan in age, and Roadside Cave is now the oldest radiometrically dated locality in the West Indies containing identifiable species of land mammals. In the absence of a good radiometric record for Quaternary paleontological sites in the Caribbean, there is no satisfactory basis for determining whether most extinct Antillean mammals died out in a “blitzkrieg”-like event immediately following initial human colonization in the mid-Holocene. Fossils of Clidomys (Heptaxodontidae, Caviomorpha), the giant Wallingford rodent, have never been found in situ in sediments of demonstrably Holocene age, and its extinction may antedate the middle Holocene. This is also a possibility for the primate Xenothrix mcgregori, although its remains have been found in loose cave earth. A major, climate-driven bout of terrestrial vertebrate extinction at about 14,000–12,000 yr B.P. has been hypothesized for the West Indies by G. Pregill and S. L. Olson (Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 12, 75–98, 1981), but at present there is nothing to connect the disappearance of Clidomys with this event either. Quaternary extinctions in the Caribbean may prove to be of critical significance for evaluating the reality of New World blitzkrieg, but not until an effort is mounted to constrain them rigorously using modern radiometric approaches.

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