• Eocene greenhouse climate revealed by coupled clumped isotope-Mg/Ca thermometry

      Evans, D; Sagoo, N; Renema, W; Cotton, LJ; Müller, W; Todd, JA; Kumar Saraswati, P; Stassen, P; Ziegler, M; Pearson, PN; et al. (PNAS, 2018-01-22)
      Past greenhouse periods with elevated atmospheric CO2 were characterized by globally warmer sea-surface temperatures (SST). However, the extent to which the high latitudes warmed to a greater degree than the tropics (polar amplification) remains poorly constrained, in particular because there are only a few temperature reconstructions from the tropics. Consequently, the relationship between increased CO2, the degree of tropical warming, and the resulting latitudinal SST gradient is not well known. Here, we present coupled clumped isotope (Δ47)-Mg/Ca measurements of foraminifera from a set of globally distributed sites in the tropics and midlatitudes. Δ47 is insensitive to seawater chemistry and therefore provides a robust constraint on tropical SST. Crucially, coupling these data with Mg/Ca measurements allows the precise reconstruction of Mg/Casw throughout the Eocene, enabling the reinterpretation of all planktonic foraminifera Mg/Ca data. The combined dataset constrains the range in Eocene tropical SST to 30–36 °C (from sites in all basins). We compare these accurate tropical SST to deep-ocean temperatures, serving as a minimum constraint on high-latitude SST. This results in a robust conservative reconstruction of the early Eocene latitudinal gradient, which was reduced by at least 32 ± 10% compared with present day, demonstrating greater polar amplification than captured by most climate models.
    • Palaeoproteomic evidence identifies archaic hominins associated with the Châtelperronian at the Grotte du Renne

      Welker, F; Hajdinjak, M; Talamo, S; Jaouen, K; Dannemann, M; David, F; Julien, M; Meyer, M; Kelso, J; Barnes, I; et al. (National Academy of Sciences, 2016-09-16)
      In Western Europe, the Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition is associated with the disappearance of Neandertals and the spread of anatomically modern humans (AMHs). Current chronological, behavioral, and biological models of this transitional period hinge on the Châtelperronian technocomplex. At the site of the Grotte du Renne, Arcy-sur-Cure, morphological Neandertal specimens are not directly dated but are contextually associated with the Châtelperronian, which contains bone points and beads. The association between Neandertals and this “transitional” assemblage has been controversial because of the lack either of a direct hominin radiocarbon date or of molecular confirmation of the Neandertal affiliation. Here we provide further evidence for a Neandertal–Châtelperronian association at the Grotte du Renne through biomolecular and chronological analysis. We identified 28 additional hominin specimens through zooarchaeology by mass spectrometry (ZooMS) screening of morphologically uninformative bone specimens from Châtelperronian layers at the Grotte du Renne. Next, we obtain an ancient hominin bone proteome through liquid chromatography-MS/MS analysis and error-tolerant amino acid sequence analysis. Analysis of this palaeoproteome allows us to provide phylogenetic and physiological information on these ancient hominin specimens. We distinguish Late Pleistocene clades within the genus Homo based on ancient protein evidence through the identification of an archaic-derived amino acid sequence for the collagen type X, alpha-1 (COL10α1) protein. We support this by obtaining ancient mtDNA sequences, which indicate a Neandertal ancestry for these specimens. Direct accelerator mass spectometry radiocarbon dating and Bayesian modeling confirm that the hominin specimens date to the Châtelperronian at the Grotte du Renne.
    • The timescale of early land plant evolution

      Morris, JL; Puttick, MN; Clark, JW; Edwards, D; Kenrick, P; Pressel, S; Wellman, CH; Yang, Z; Schneider, H; Donoghue, PCJ (National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 2018-03-06)
      Establishing the timescale of early land plant evolution is essential for testing hypotheses on the coevolution of land plants and Earth’s System. The sparseness of early land plant megafossils and stratigraphic controls on their distribution make the fossil record an unreliable guide, leaving only the molecular clock. However, the application of molecular clock methodology is challenged by the current impasse in attempts to resolve the evolutionary relationships among the living bryophytes and tracheophytes. Here, we establish a timescale for early land plant evolution that integrates over topological uncertainty by exploring the impact of competing hypotheses on bryophyte−tracheophyte relationships, among other variables, on divergence time estimation. We codify 37 fossil calibrations for Viridiplantae following best practice. We apply these calibrations in a Bayesian relaxed molecular clock analysis of a phylogenomic dataset encompassing the diversity of Embryophyta and their relatives within Viridiplantae. Topology and dataset sizes have little impact on age estimates, with greater differences among alternative clock models and calibration strategies. For all analyses, a Cambrian origin of Embryophyta is recovered with highest probability. The estimated ages for crown tracheophytes range from Late Ordovician to late Silurian. This timescale implies an early establishment of terrestrial ecosystems by land plants that is in close accord with recent estimates for the origin of terrestrial animal lineages. Biogeochemical models that are constrained by the fossil record of early land plants, or attempt to explain their impact, must consider the implications of a much earlier, middle Cambrian–Early Ordovician, origin.