Neotethyan biogeography during the Paleogene

Anatolian Biogeography during the Paleogene – a puzzle of dispersals and endemism.

Sorting through sediment in Turkey – With Mike Taylor.

Linking continental collisions, climate change, and past mammalian dispersals in the Middle and Far East

During the Paleogene, the mammalian fossil record indicates several discrete dispersal events between Africa and Eurasia along the Tethyan Oceanic margins, some of them involving the precursors of modern ungulates, primates, and rodents. The polarity, the exact timing, and the causes of these dispersal events are poorly constrained despite their critical importance in the understanding of the early radiations of modern mammals. This project proposes to investigate the paleogeographical and paleoenvironmental conditions that favored these dispersals by focusing on key fossiliferous sites along the Neotethyan margin in the Middle and Far East (Turkey, Iran, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan), at the biogeographic cross-roads between Afro-Arabia, Asia, and Europe.

I first aim to reconstruct the paleogeographical evolution and collision chronology in the area, and use different paleoenvironmental proxies to date and understand the past environments along the Neotethyan dispersal corridor. The results will highlight the tectonic and paleoclimatic triggers leading to the Paleogene mammalian dispersals and consequent radiations.

More about this research project: They speak about it in the news here, here, and also there (but in French). You can also check my interview on the French radio show La Methode Scientifique, and a broad-audience article I wrote on our work. I was awarded a ERC Consolidator Grant in 2022 to explore the biogeography of the Neotethyan domain during the Eocene, with a focus on primate dispersals.

Collaborators and (former) students: K. Chris Beard, Mike Taylor & Clay Campbell (Kansas University, USA), Pauline Coster (Reserve Nationale du Luberon), Faruk Ocakoglu (Eskisehir University, Turkey), Grégoire Métais (Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France), Megan Mueller (University of Connecticut), Douwe van Hinsbergen (University of Utrecht), Paolo Ballato (Roma 3), Sebastien Castelltort (Université de Genève), Carina Hoorn (University of Amsterdam), Marc Jolivet & Guillaume Dupont-Nivet (University of Rennes).

Topical papers:

A. Licht, G. Métais, P. Coster, D. Ibilioglu, F. Ocakoglu, J. Westerweel, M. Mueller, C. Campbell, S. Mattingly, M.C. Wood & K.C. Beard (2022). Balkanatolia: the insular mammalian biogeographic province that partly paved the way to the Grande Coupure. Earth Science Reviews 226, pp.103929.

K.C.Beard, G. Metais, F. Ocakoglu & A. Licht (2020). An omomyid primate from the Pontide Microcontinent of north-central Anatolia: implications for sweepstakes dispersal of terrestrial mammals during the Eocene. Geobios 66-67, pp.143-152.

M. Mueller, A. Licht, C. Campbell, F. Ocakoğlu, M. Taylor, L. Burch, T. Ugrai, M. Kaya, B. Kurtoglu, P. Coster, G. Metais & K.C. Beard (2019). Collision chronology along the Izmir-Ankara-Erzincan suture zone: Insights from the Sarıcakaya Basin, western Anatolia. Tectonics 38 (10), 3652-3674.

G. Metais, P. Coster, J.R. Kappelman, A. Licht, F. Ocakoglu, M. Taylor, & K.C. Beard.Eocene metatherians from Anatolia illuminate the assembly of an island fauna during Deep Time. Plos One 11, e0206181.

A. Licht, P. Coster, F. Ocakoğlu, C. Campbell, G. Métais, A. Mulch, M. Taylor, J. Kappelman & K.C. Beard (2017). Tectono-stratigraphy of the Orhaniye Basin, Turkey: Implications for collision chronology and Paleogene biogeography of central Anatolia. Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 143, 45-58.