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Tracking changing environments using stable carbon isotopes in fossil tooth enamel: an example from the South African hominin sites.

By Julia A. Lee-Thorp, J. Luyt and M.B. Sponheimer

Abstract

NoThe environmental contexts of the karstic hominin sites in South Africa have been established largely by means of faunal associations; taken together these data suggest a trend from relatively closed and more mesic to open, drier environments from about 3 to 1.5 Ma. Vrba argued for a major shift within this trend ca. 2.4¿2.6 Ma, an influential proposal that posited links between bovid (and hominin) radiation in Africa and the intensification of Northern Hemisphere Glaciation. Yet faunal approaches often rely on habitat and feeding preferences of modern taxa that may differ from those of their extinct predecessors. Here we explore ways of extending 13C/12C data from fossil mammals beyond denoting ¿presence¿ or ¿absence¿ of C4 grasses using the evolution of open environments in South Africa as a case study. To do so we calculated the relative proportions of C3-, mixed-, and C4-feeding herbivores for all the hominin sites for which we have sufficient data based on 13C/12C analyses of fossil tooth enamel. The results confirm a general trend towards more open environments since 3 Ma, but they also emphasize a marked change to open grassy habitats in the latest Pliocene/early Pleistocene. Mean 13C/12C for large felids also mirrored this trend

Topics: Environmental change, Grasslands, ¿13C;, Fossil enamel, Plio-Pleistocene, South Africa
Year: 2007
DOI identifier: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2006.11.020
OAI identifier: oai:bradscholars.brad.ac.uk:10454/3432
Provided by: Bradford Scholars
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