Woody cover and hominin environments in the past 6 million years

Cerling, Thure E., Wynn, Jonathan G., Andanje, Samuel A., Bird, Michael I., Korir, David Kimutai, Levin, Naomi E., Mace, William, Macharia, Anthony N., Quade, Jay, and Remien, Christopher H. (2011) Woody cover and hominin environments in the past 6 million years. Nature, 476. pp. 51-56.

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Abstract

The role of African savannahs in the evolution of early hominins has been debated for nearly a century. Resolution of this issue has been hindered by difficulty in quantifying the fraction of woody cover in the fossil record. Here we show that the fraction of woody cover in tropical ecosystems can be quantified using stable carbon isotopes in soils. Furthermore, we use fossil soils from hominin sites in the Awash and Omo-Turkana basins in eastern Africa to reconstruct the fraction of woody cover since the Late Miocene epoch (about 7 million years ago). 13C/12C ratio data from 1,300 palaeosols at or adjacent to hominin sites dating to at least 6 million years ago show that woody cover was predominantly less than ~40% at most sites. These data point to the prevalence of open environments at the majority of hominin fossil sites in eastern Africa over the past 6 million years.

Item ID: 20821
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
ISSN: 1476-4687
Date Deposited: 13 Mar 2012 01:18
FoR Codes: 04 EARTH SCIENCES > 0406 Physical Geography and Environmental Geoscience > 040606 Quaternary Environments @ 100%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970121 Expanding Knowledge in History and Archaeology @ 100%
Citation Count from Web of Science Web of Science 2
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