Beetle records: postglacial North America

Scott Elias

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In recent decades, studies of postglacial fossil beetle assemblages have been carried out in many regions of North America. The fossil beetle record from most parts of North America indicates a relatively smooth transition from glacial to interglacial climates, beginning about 17 kya. With the exception of Maritime Canada, most North American paleotemperature reconstructions based on beetles show no climatic reversals during the Late Glacial interval (17–11 kya). Most early postglacial beetle faunas from eastern and central North America are indicative of climatic regimes close to modern parameters. Exceptions to this include sites that were located in close proximity to large bodies of glacial meltwater. Studies of late Holocene assemblages come mostly from western North America. Rocky Mountain beetle faunas are indicative of summer temperatures above modern levels and winter temperatures below modern levels, from 11 kya until about 3.2 kya. These long-term trends were followed by a series of small-scale oscillations in the late Holocene. The best-studied desert region has been the Chihuahuan Desert. Here, the shift from cool glacial to warm and dry postglacial climates began by 14.7 kya. By about 8.4 kya, the dominance of xeric species indicates establishment of desert environments, including desert grasslands, throughout the Chihuahuan Desert region. The Sonoron Desert beetle faunas indicate only small-scale changes in regional climate during the late Pleistocene and Holocene.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Quaternary Science
EditorsScott Elias
Place of PublicationAmsterdam
Number of pages9
ISBN (Print)978-0-444-53642-6
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2013


  • Beetles; Coleoptera; Environmental Archaeology; Holocene; Insects; North America; Paleoclimate; Paleoecology; Postglacial

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