Alexandria, Va. — The La Brea tar pits in downtown Los Angeles are a famous predator trap. For every herbivore, a dozen or more carnivores — saber-toothed cats and dire wolves chief among them — are pulled from the prolific Pleistocene fossil site. In fact, the remains of more than 4,000 dire wolves have been excavated, along with more than 2,000 saber-toothed cats. The sheer number of fossils allows researchers to ask population-level questions about the climate and environment as well as how these animals evolved.
Now, two new studies focusing dire wolves and saber-toothed cats are characterizing how the tar pits' two top predators coped with the warming climate toward the end of the last ice age, and the results are surprisingly dissimilar: While the wolves got smaller, the cats got bigger.
Read more about how the predators' physiologies adapted to changing climatic conditions in the August issue of EARTH Magazine: http://bit.ly/1sZ1KJQ.
For more stories about the science of our planet, check out EARTH magazine online or subscribe athttp://www.earthmagazine.org. The August issue, now available on the digital newsstand, features stories about a new fossil dino dubbed the "chicken from hell" found in North and South Dakota's Hell Creek Formation, how people's perceptions of earthquake motion can depend on their motion, and the first direct evidence of water in the mantle's transition zone, plus much, much more.
Keep up to date with the latest happenings in Earth, energy and environment news with EARTH magazine online at:http://www.earthmagazine.org/. Published by the American Geosciences Institute, EARTH is your source for the science behind the headlines.
The American Geosciences Institute is a nonprofit federation of 49 geoscientific and professional associations that represents more than 250,000 geologists, geophysicists and other earth scientists. Founded in 1948, AGI provides information services to geoscientists, serves as a voice of shared interests in the profession, plays a major role in strengthening geoscience education, and strives to increase public awareness of the vital role the geosciences play in society's use of resources, resiliency to natural hazards, and interaction with the environment.