Straining to scent a water source, searching for a tender leaf, sensing immediate danger - to live in this near-desert today, mule deer, coyotes, quail, and humans must possess special skills and abilities. Without them they cross the threshold from survival to extinction. This holds true in any environment on the planet - now, and in the past.
Here, about 30 million years ago, major shifts in temperature and humidity occurred. Great changes in the plant life inevitably resulted. The animals that survived this transition were those that evolved new behaviors, different bodies, new abilities to survive. Still, long-term survival was not assured, as the fossil record reveals.
Fossils from the John Day country imply more than an odd-shaped mammal or exotic plant. Here they portray a healthy forest ecosystem long gone, and suggest reasons for its disappearance. Gathering such information may help us predict the future of modern species.