Since 1960, more than 2,000 fossil packrat middens have been collected, dated, and analyzed from western North America, with nearly a third of these contained in the Desert Laboratory’s collection. These middens offer unrivaled taxonomic and spatial resolution, and hence unique perspectives, on the stability, disassembly, and assembly of local communities through major climatic events in the dynamic late Quaternary.
For nearly five decades, the University of Arizona has served as a hub for packrat midden research in North America (e.g., Betancourt et al. 1990, Packrat Middens: The Last 40,000 Years of Biotic Change. U of Arizona Press), providing training and support for many of its practitioners.
Midden data are archived at the USGS-NOAA North American Packrat midden Database (https://geochange.er.usgs.gov/midden/) and are also being incorporated into the Neotoma Paleoecology Database (https://www.neotomadb.org/).
Midden materials are among the richest and diverse sources of well- preserved plant and animal remains worldwide and have been used in clever and unique ways to investigate ecophysiological, phenotypic, genetic, distributional, and community response to climate variability and change. Despite important insights gained, the full range and abundance of information that can be extracted from middens remains to be explored, particularly in light of recent and impending advances in ancient DNA (aDNA), genomics, geochemistry, informatics, microscopy, and theoretical ecology.
The collection is open to researchers upon appointment. Please contact the Desert Laboratory (firstname.lastname@example.org) for all inquiries.
Papers On Middens, Packrats, and Other Middens, by Region
Agenbroad, L.D., and Mead, J.I., 1994, Documented Quaternary climate change on the Colorado Plateau: 40,000 yr B.P.-present, in Waugh, W.J., ed., Proceedings of the Workshop, Climate Change in the Four Corners and Adjacent Regions: Implications for Environmental Restoration and Land-Use Planning, September 12-14, 1994, Mesa State College, Grand Junction, Colorado, p. 3-8.
Allen, C.D., Betancourt, J., and Swetnam, T.W., Landscape changes in the southwestern United States: Techniques, long-term data sets, and trends: United States Geological Survey, Retrieved April 22, 2007, from https://biology.usgs.gov/luhna/chap9.html.
Anderson, R.S., 1989, Development of the southwestern Ponderosa Pine forests: What do we really know?, in Multiresource Managment of Ponderosa Pine Forests: USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station General Technical Report, RM-185, Flagstaff, Arizona, p. 15-22.
Arundel, S.T., 2002, Modeling climate limits of plants found in Sonoran Desert packrat middens: Quaternary Research, v. 58, p. 112-121.
Ashworth, A.C., 1973, Fossil beetles from a fossil wood rat midden in western Texas: Coleopterists' Bulletin, v. 27, no. 3, p. 139-140.
Bailey, V., 1931, Mammals of New Mexico, in North American Fauna No. 53: Government Printing Office, Washington D.C., p. 170-192.
Baker, R.H., 1956, Mammals of Coahuila, Mexico: University of Kansas, Museum of Natural History Publications, v. 9, p. 127-335.
Beatley, J.C., 1976, Rainfall and fluctuating plant populations in relation to distributions and numbers of desert rodents in southern Nevada: Oecologia, v. 24, p. 21-42.
Bell, C.J., and Glennon, J., 2003, Arvicoline rodents from Screaming Neotoma Cave, southern Colorado Plateau, Apache County, Arizona, with comments on the Pleistocene biogeography of Lemmiscus curtatus, inB.W. Schubert, Mead, J.I., and Graham, R.W., eds., Ice Age Cave Faunas of North America: Indiana University Press, Indianapolis, p. 54-63.
Betancourt, J.L., Pierson, E.A., Rylander, K.A., Fairchild-Parker, J.A., and Dean, J.S., 1993, Influence of history and climate on New Mexico pinyon-juniper woodlands, in Aldon, E.F., and Shaw, D.W., eds., Managing Pinyon-Juniper Ecosystems for Sustainability and Social Needs; Proceedings of the Symposium at Santa Fe, New Mexico: USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest & Range Experiment Station, Fort Collins, p. 42-62.
Betancourt, J.L., Van Devender, T.R., and Martin, P.S., 1990, Introduction, in Betancourt, J.L., Van Devender, T.R., and Martin, P.S., eds., Packrat Middens: The Last 40,000 Years of Biotic Change: University of Arizona Press, Tucson, p. 2-11.
Betancourt, J.L., Van Devender, T.R., and Martin, P.S., 1990, Synthesis and Prospectus, in Betancourt, J.L., Van Devender, T.R., and Martin, P.S., eds., Packrat Middens: The Last 40,000 Years of Biotic Change: University of Arizona Press, Tucson, p. 435-447.
Betancourt, J.L., Webb, R.S., Lixey, L.M., and Andrews, T.G., 2004, Paleo Slide Set: Packrat middens: Vegetation and climate variability in the southwestern United States, Retrieved April 23, 2007, from https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/slides/slideset/index16.htm.
Birney, E.C., 1973, Systematics of three species of woodrats (genus Neotoma) in central North America: University of Kansas, Museum of Natural History, Miscellaneous Publication No. 58, Lawrence, 173 p.
Bleich, V.C., and Schwartz, O.A., 1975, Observations on the home range of the desert woodrat, Neotoma lepida intermedia: Journal of Mammology, v. 56, no. 2, p. 518-519.
Bonaccorso, F.J., and Brown, J.H., 1972, House construction of the desert wood rat, Neotoma lepida lepida: Journal of Mammalogy, v. 53, no. 2, p. 283-288.
Brakenridge, G.R., 1978, Evidence for a cold, dry full-glacial climate in the American Southwest: Quaternary Research, v. 9, p. 22-40.
Brown, J.H., 1968, Adaptation to environmental temperature in two species of woodrats, Neotoma cinerea and N. albigula: University of Michigan, Museum of Zoology, Miscellaneouos Publications, v. 135, p. 1-48.
Brown, J.H., and Lee, A.K., 1969, Bergmann's rule and climatic adaptation in woodrats (Neotoma): Evolution, v. 23, p. 329-338.
Brown, J.H., Lieberman, G.A., and Dengler, W.F., 1972, Woodrats and cholla: Dependence of a small mammal population on the density of cacti: Ecology, v. 53, p. 310-313.
Cameron, G.N., 1971, Niche overlap and competition in woodrats: Journal of Mammalogy, v. 52, no. 2, p. 288-296.
Cameron, G.N., and Rainey, D.G., 1972, Habitat utilization by Neotoma lepida in the Mohave Desert: Journal of Mammalogy, v. 53, no. 2, p. 251-266.
Charlet, D.A., 1995, Great Basin montane and subalpine conifer diversity: Dispersal or extinction pattern?: Ph. D. Dissertation, University of Neveda, Reno, 177 p.
Chess, T., and Chew, R.M., 1971, Weight maintenance of desert woodrat (Neotoma lepida) on some natural foods: Journal of Mammalogy, v. 52, no. 1, p. 193-195.
Cole, K.L., and Arundel, S.T., 2005, Carbon isotopes from fossil packrat pellets and elevational movements of Utah agave plants reveal the Younger Dryas cold period in Grand Canyon, Arizona: Geology v. 33 no. 9, p. 713-716.
Cole, K.L., and Mayer, L., 1982, Use of packrat middens to determine rates of cliff retreat in the eastern Grand Canyon, Arizona: Geology, v. 10, p. 597-599.
Cole, K.L., and Mayer, L., 1983, Comment and replies on use of packrat middens to determine rates of cliff retreat in the eastern Grand Canyon, Arizona: Geology, v. 11, no. 8, p. 494-495.
Connin, S.L., Betancourt, J.L., and Quade, J., 1998, Late Pleistocene C4 plant dominance and summer rainfall in the southwestern United States from isotopic study of herbivore teeth: Quaternary Research, v. 50, p. 179-193.
Dalquest, W.W., and Strangl, F.B., Jr., 1984, Late Pleistocene and early recent mammals from Fowlkes Cave, southern Culberson County, Texas, in Genoways, H.H., and Dawson, M.R., eds., Contributions in Quaternary Vertebrate Paleontology: A Volume in Memorial to John E. Guilday: Special Publications of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, No.8, Pittsburgh, p. 432-455.
Davis, O.K., 2001, Pollen analysis of 26WP12, Lower Pictograph Cave, Great Basin National Park, White Pine Co., Nevada: Report Submitted to Western Archaeological and Conservation Center, Tucson, Arizona, 1-17 p.
Davis, O.K., Agenbroad, L.D., Martin, P.S., and Mead, J.I., 1984, The Pleistocene dung blanket of Bechan Cave, Utah, in Genoways, H.H., and Dawson, M.R., eds., Contributions in Quaternary Vertebrate Paleontology: A Volume in Memorial to John E. Guilday: Special Publications of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, No. 8, Pittsburgh, p. 267-282.
Davis, O.K., and Sellers, W.D., 1987, Contrasting climatic histories for western North America during the early Holocene: Current Research in the Pleistocene, v. 4, p. 87-89.
Dial, K.P., and Czaplewski, N.J., 1990, Do woodrat middens accurately represent the animal's environment and diets? The Woodhouse Mesa study, in Betancourt, J.L., Van Devender, T.R., and Martin, P.S., eds., Packrat Middens: The Last 40,000 Years of Biotic Change: University of Arizona Press, Tucson, p. 43-58.
Dixon, J., 1919, Notes on the natural history of the bushy-tailed wood rats of California, in Kofoid, C.A., and Grinnell, J., eds., University of California Publications in Zoology: University of California Press, Berkeley, p. 49-74.
Douglas, D. 2007, Analysis of future climate for WCS, Andrews County, Texas low-level radioactive disposal site: URS Corporation, San Diego.
Eaton, J., 2003, Potent packrat leavings tempted starving 49ers: Berkeley Daily Planet, Retrieved April 18, 2005, from http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/article.cfm?archiveDate=12-12-03&storyID=17931.
Elias, S.A., 1990, Observations on the taphonomy of late Quaternary insect fossil remains in packrat middens of the Chihuahuan Desert: Palaios, v. 5, no. 4, p. 356-363.
Elliot-Fisk, D.L., Adkins, B.S., and Spaulding, J.L., 1983, A re-evaluation of the postglacial vegetation of the Laramie Basin, Wyoming-Colorado: The Great Basin Naturalist, v. 43, no. 3, p. 377-384.
English, P.F., 1923, The dusky-footed woodrat (Neotoma fuscipes): Journal of Mammalogy, v. 4, no. 1, p. 1-8.
Finley, R.B., Jr., 1990, Woodrat ecology and behavior and the interpretation of paleomiddens, in Betancourt, J.L., Van Devender, T.R., and Martin, P.S., eds., Packrat Middens: The Last 40,000 Years of Biotic Change: University of Arizona Press, Tucson, p. 28-42.
Finley, R.B., Jr., 1992, Formation and occurrence of calcium oxalate deposits on rocks at wood rat (Neotoma) dens, Annual Meeting of the American Society of Mammologists, June, 1992: Salt Lake City, Utah, p. 1-17.
Finley, R. B., Jr. 2004, Biology of wood rats as cave dwellers and collectors, in Barnosky, A.D., ed., Biodiversity Response to Climate Change in the middle Pleistocene - The Porcupine Cave Fauna From Colorado: University of California Press, Berkeley, p. 74-81.
Force, C.P., 1992, Late Quaternary Neotoma biogeography of the western Grand Canyon: M.S. Thesis, Northern Arizona University, Tucson, 112 p.
Gibson, J.D., 1993, Natural responses to Quaternary climatic change in the greater Nevada Test Site region, U.S.A.: Quaternary International, v. 20, p. 131-142.
Gillespie, W.B. 1985, Holocene climate and environment in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, in Mathien, F.J., ed., Environment and subsistence of Chaco Canyon, New Mexico: National Park Service, Albuquerque, p. 13-45.
Golenberg, E.M., 1999, Isolation, identification and authentication of DNA sequences derived from fossil material, in Jones, T.P., and Rowe, N.P., eds., Fossil Plants and Spores: modern techniques: Geologic Society, London, p. 156-160.
Grayson, D.K., 1993a, Chapter 6: The late Pleistocene vegetation of the Great Basin, in The Desert's Past: A Natural Prehistory of the Great Basin: P. S. P. E. Associates, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington and London.
Grayson, D.K., 1993b, Chapter 7: The late Pleistocene vertebrates of the Great Basin, in The Desert's Past: A Natural Prehistory of the Great Basin: P. S. P. E. Associates, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington and London.
Grayson, D.K., 1993c, Chapter 8: The Great Basin during the Holocene, in The Desert's Past: A Natural Prehistory of the Great Basin: P. S. P. E. Associates, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington and London.
Grayson, D.K., and Livingston, S.D., 1989, High-elevation records for Neotoma cinerea in the White Mountains, California: Great Basin Naturalist, v. 49, no. 3, p. 392-395.
Grayson, D.K., Livingston, S.D., Rickart, E., and Shaver, M.W.I., 1996, Biogeographic significance of low-elevation records for Neotoma cinerea from the northern Bonneville Basin, Utah: The Great Basin Naturalist, v. 56, no. 3, p. 191-196.
Hallett, J.C., and Wigand, P.E., 2001, The role of dietary fiber in the dung size of bushy-tailed woodrats, Neotoma cinerea: Its potential application to paleoclimatic interpretation: Western North American Naturalist, v. 61, no. 1, p. 57-63.
Hall, W.E., T.R. Van Devender and C.A. Olson. 1988. Late Quaternary Arthropod Remains from Sonoran Desert Packrat Middens, Southwestern Arizona and Northwestern Sonora. Quaternary Research. 29: 277-293.
Hall, W.E., C.A. Olson and T.R. Van Devender. 1989. Late Quaternary and Modern Arthropods from the Ajo Mountains of Southwestern Arizona. Pan-Pacific Entomologist. 65(3): 322-347.
Hall, W.E., T.R. Van Devender and C.A. Olson. 1990. Arthropod history of the Puerto Blanco Mountains, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Southwestern Arizona. In "Fossil Packrat Middens: The last 40,000 years of Biotic Change in the Arid West" (P.S. Martin, T.R. Van Devender, J.L. Betancourt, Eds.). Univ. of Arizona Press, Tucson.
Hansen, R.M., 1978, Shasta ground sloth food habits, Rampart Cave, Arizona: Paleobiology, v. 4, no. 3, p. 302-319.
Harris, A.H., 1984, Neotoma in the late Pleistocene of New Mexico and Chihuahua, in Genoways, H.H., and Dawson, M.R., eds., Contributions in Quaternary Vertebrate Paleontology: A Volume in Memorial to John E. Guilday: Special Publications of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, No. 8, p. 164-178.
Harris, A.H. 1985, Late Pleistocene Vertebrate Paleoecology of the West: University of Texas Press, Austin.
Horton, J.S., and Wright, J.T., 1944, The wood rat as an ecological factor in southern California watersheds: Ecology, v. 25, no. 3, p. 341-351.
Ingles, L.G., 1965, Wood rats (Neotoma), in Ingles, L.G., ed., Mammals of the Pacific States, California, Oregon and Washington: Stanford University Press, Stanford, p. 266-273.
Ireland, P.H., and Hays, H.A., 1969, A new method for determining the home range of woodrats: Journal of Mammalogy, v. 50, no. 2, p. 378-379.
Jackson, G.F., 1965, Defense Cave - Its geology, paleontology, and biology: National Speleological Society News, v. 23, no. 6, p. 88-90.
Jahren, A.H., Amundson, R., Kendall, C., and Wigand, P.E., 2001, Paleoclimatic reconstruction using the correlation in delta 18O of hackberry carbonate and environmental water, North America: Quaternary Research, v. 56, p. 252-263.
Jennings, J.D., 1980, Cowboy Cave: Anthropological Papers University of Utah, Salt Lake City, 224 p.
Lewin, R., 1985, Plant communities resist climatic change: Science, v. 228, p. 165-166.
Lindsdale, J.M., and Tevis, L.P., Jr., 1951, Population, in Lindsdale, J.M., and Tevis, L.P., Jr., eds., The Dusky-Footed Wood Rat: University of California Press, Berkeley, p. 595-599.
Livo, L.J., 1992, The pinon and the pack rat: Colorado Outdoors, p. 20-23.
Lomolino, M.V., Brown, J.H., and Davis, R., 1989, Island biogeography of montane forest mammals in the American southwest: Ecology, v. 70, no. 1, p. 180-194.
Mallouf, R.J., 1981, Observations concerning environmental and cultural interactions during the terminal Pleistocene and early Holocene in the Big Bend of Texas and adjoining regions: Bulletin of the Texas Archeological Society, v. 52, p. 121-146.
Markgraf, V., 1985, Plant inertia reassessed: The American Naturalist, v. 127, no. 5, p. 725-726.
Martin, P.S., 1969, Pollen analysis and the scanning electron microscope: Proceedings of the Second Annual SEM Symposium, IIT Research Institute, Chicago, p. 89-102.
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McClure, P.A., and Randolph, J.C., 1980, Relative allocation of energy to growth and development of homeothermy in the eastern wood rat (Neotoma floridana) and hispid cotton rat (Sigmodon hispidus): Ecological Monographs, v. 50, no. 2, p. 199-219.
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Mclane, A.R., 1973, Caves of the Mt. Moriah planning unit, Ely Ranger District, White Pines County, Nevada: A Summary Report: Humbolt National Forest, 1-28 p.
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