Origin, paleoecology, and extirpation of bluebirds and crossbills in the Bahamas across the last glacial-interglacial transition [Ecology]
On low islands or island groups such as the Bahamas, surrounded by shallow oceans, Quaternary glacial–interglacial changes in climate and sea level had major effects on terrestrial plant and animal communities. We examine the paleoecology of two species of songbirds (Passeriformes) recorded as Late Pleistocene fossils on the Bahamian island of Abaco—the Eastern bluebird (Sialia sialis) and Hispaniolan crossbill (Loxia megaplaga). Each species lives today only outside of the Bahamian Archipelago, with S. sialis occurring in North and Central America and L. megaplaga endemic to Hispaniola. Unrecorded in the Holocene fossil record of Abaco, both of these species probably colonized Abaco during the last glacial interval but were eliminated when the island became much smaller, warmer, wetter, and more isolated during the last glacial–interglacial transition from ∼15 to 9 ka. Today’s warming temperatures and rising sea levels, although not as great in magnitude as those that took place from ∼15 to 9 ka, are occurring rapidly and may contribute to considerable biotic change on islands by acting in synergy with direct human impacts.
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