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Science. 2019 Nov 22;366(6468):977-983. doi: 10.1126/science.aay2268. Epub 2019 Oct 24.

Exceptional continental record of biotic recovery after the Cretaceous-Paleogene mass extinction.

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Denver Museum of Nature & Science, 2001 Colorado Boulevard, Denver, CO 80205, USA.
Denver Museum of Nature & Science, 2001 Colorado Boulevard, Denver, CO 80205, USA.
National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, 10th Street and Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20560, USA.
Department of Earth Sciences, University of New Hampshire, 56 College Road, Durham, NH 03824, USA.
Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Wesleyan University, Exley Science Center 333, Middletown, CT 06459, USA.
Department of Entomology, University of Maryland, College Park, 4291 Fieldhouse Drive, College Park, MD 20742, USA.
Department of Geology, Colorado College, 14 E. Cache La Poudre Street, Colorado Springs, CO 80903, USA.
Department of Biology, University of Washington, 251 Life Sciences Building, Seattle, WA 98195, USA.
Department of Anatomical Sciences, Stony Brook University, 101 Nicolls Road, Stony Brook, NY 11794, USA.
Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, Brooklyn College, City University of New York, 2900 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11210, USA.
Department of Anthropology, The Graduate Center, City University of New York, 365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10016, USA.
New York Consortium in Evolutionary Primatology, 200 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024, USA.


We report a time-calibrated stratigraphic section in Colorado that contains unusually complete fossils of mammals, reptiles, and plants and elucidates the drivers and tempo of biotic recovery during the poorly known first million years after the Cretaceous-Paleogene mass extinction (KPgE). Within ~100 thousand years (ka) post-KPgE, mammalian taxonomic richness doubled, and maximum mammalian body mass increased to near pre-KPgE levels. A threefold increase in maximum mammalian body mass and dietary niche specialization occurred at ~300 ka post-KPgE, concomitant with increased megafloral standing species richness. The appearance of additional large mammals occurred by ~700 ka post-KPgE, coincident with the first appearance of Leguminosae (the bean family). These concurrent plant and mammal originations and body-mass shifts coincide with warming intervals, suggesting that climate influenced post-KPgE biotic recovery.


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