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Keywords:

  • Cenozoic;
  • genus;
  • mammals;
  • North America;
  • species

Abstract

Species longevity in the fossil record is related to many paleoecological variables and is important to macroevolutionary studies, yet there are very few reliable data on average species durations in Cenozoic fossil mammals. Many of the online databases (such as the Paleobiology Database) use only genera of North American Cenozoic mammals and there are severe problems because key groups (e.g. camels, oreodonts, pronghorns and proboscideans) have no reliable updated taxonomy, with many invalid genera and species and/or many undescribed genera and species. Most of the published datasets yield species duration estimates of approximately 2.3–4.3 Myr for larger mammals, with small mammals tending to have shorter species durations. My own compilation of all the valid species durations in families with updated taxonomy (39 families, containing 431 genera and 998 species, averaging 2.3 species per genus) yields a mean duration of 3.21 Myr for larger mammals. This breaks down to 4.10–4.39 Myr for artiodactyls, 3.14–3.31 Myr for perissodactyls and 2.63–2.95 Myr for carnivorous mammals (carnivorans plus creodonts). These averages are based on a much larger, more robust dataset than most previous estimates, so they should be more reliable for any studies that need species longevity to be accurately estimated.