The alluvial sequence of Santa Cruz Nuevo, Mexico: Paleoecological interpretation of fossil vertebrates and pedosediments from marine isotope stage 3
The Pleistocene was climatically variable worldwide. In Mexico, climatic changes have been primarily studied in central and northern regions of the country, particularly in regard to marine isotope stage 2 (MIS 2). The paleoenvironments of the previous interglacial, MIS 3, remain less known, especially in the south. In the present work, the results for an alluvial pedosequence in Santa Cruz Nuevo, Puebla are presented; the large and small vertebrates recovered from this locality were used to reconstruct past paleoenvironments. However, it was found that the suite of fossil microvertebrates used here was more informative than that of the macrofossils because they are still extant, thus allowing insights into their ecology.
Radiocarbon dating of the pedosequence indicates it was formed during MIS 3, around 30,000 radiocarbon years before present. Four pedological units were recognized: stagnogleyic, carbonate, gley and humus. With the exception of the carbonate unit, fossils were retrieved from all pedological units. Paleosols varied between Fluvisols and Gleysols, neither of which is diagnostic of any particular climate. Nevertheless, they are both hydromorphic, a condition that could result from intermittent flooding.
At the base of the section, in the stagnogleyic unit, the presence of mammoth bones in conjunction with negative values of δ13C (-23.3 ‰) in paleosols suggest the existence of grassland with a dominance of C3 grasses. The isotopic values are similar in the succeeding units (-23 to -22 ‰); however, the fossil association found in Santa Cruz Nuevo indicates the incorporation of shrubland faunas. It can thus be inferred that the plant composition in Santa Cruz Nuevo comprised C3 grasses and CAM metabolic succulents such as cacti and magueys. Hydrated CAM plants use the ribulose 1,5-biphosphate (RBP) carboxilase enzyme, which produces negative values comparable to those of C3 plants. The uppermost unit, the humus, has a similar fossil association, but in spite of this, the paleosol-based isotopic values suggest a vegetation mix, indicated by the presence of C4 plants such as grasses.
The comparison of our results with other records suggests that the end of MIS 3 was a dry phase which changed to humid, and in some places cool conditions, during MIS 2. No MIS 2 record is preserved in the Santa Cruz Nuevo pedosequence. The comparison of the modern soil and climate with our pedosequence shows more humid conditions during MIS 3. Finally, and although the microvertebrate associations are similar to extant ones, the macrovertebrates also encompass extinct taxa.