Paleo Packrat Middens
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 and tours upon appointment. Please contact the Desert Laboratory (firstname.lastname@example.org) for all inquiries.
Midden Related Papers: North America
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Cameron, G.N., 1971, Niche overlap and competition in woodrats: Journal of Mammalogy, v. 52, no. 2, p. 288-296.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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