Paleoecological patterns at the Hadar hominin site, Afar Regional State, Ethiopia.

Institute of Human Origins, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-4101, USA.
Journal of Human Evolution (Impact Factor: 3.87). 07/2008; 54(6):743-68. DOI: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2007.08.013
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Reconstructing paleoecological patterns associated with hominin taxa, such as Australopithecus afarensis, is important for understanding possible evolutionary mechanisms involved in extinction and speciation events. It is critical to identify local, regional, or pan-African causal factors because patterns at these different levels may affect separate populations of the same species of hominin in unique ways. Habitat reconstructions of 12 submembers of the Hadar and Busidima formations (approximately 3.8-2.35 Ma) are presented here along with faunal differences in these submembers through time. Habitats with medium density tree and bush cover dominated the landscape through much of the earlier time period in the Hadar Formation. The lowermost Sidi Hakoma Member is the most closed habitat. The Denen Dora Member shows the influence of frequent floodplain edaphic grasslands with high abundances of reducin bovids. There is an influx of ungulates in the Kada Hadar Member (approximately 3.2--approximately 2.96 Ma) that indicates a more arid habitat populated by mammals that were recovered from earlier deposits further south in Ethiopia and Kenya. In the younger deposits from the Busidima Formation at Hadar, the landscape was open wooded grassland with some floodplain environments. The fossil assemblages from the Busidima Formation show a substantial species turnover. Although high numbers of A. afarensis specimens are associated with the lower Sidi Hakoma Member, they clearly inhabited a variety of habitats throughout the entire Hadar Formation. Australopithecus afarensis from Laetoli through Hadar times appears to have been a eurytopic species.

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