Late Cenozoic onset of the latitudinal diversity gradient of North American mammals
Marcot et al
The decline of species richness from equator to pole, or latitudinal diversity gradient (LDG), is nearly universal among clades of living organisms, yet whether it was such a pervasive pattern in the geologic past remains uncertain. Here, we calculate the strength of the LDG for terrestrial mammals in North America over the past 65 My, using 27,903 fossil occurrences of Cenozoic terrestrial mammals from western North America downloaded from the Paleobiology Database. Accounting for temporal and spatial variation in sampling, the LDG was substantially weaker than it is today for most of the Cenozoic and the robust modern LDG of North American mammals evolved only over the last 4 My. The strength of the LDG correlates negatively with global temperature, suggesting a role of global climate patterns in the establishment and maintenance of the LDG for North American mammals.
pop sci write up.