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.
"It also needs to be borne in mind that a dietary change towards stenotopy tends to be unusual among mammals (Price et al., 2012), even more so if A. bahrelghazali is derived from A. afarensis, either as a regional variant or through cladogenesis. A. afarensis was a eurytopic species that occupied different habitats (Reed, 2008; Kimbel and Delezene, 2009; Behrensmeyer and Reed, 2013) and successfully negotiated fluctuating environmental conditions during its lifetime (Bonnefille et al., 2004). It too incorporated C 4 foods into its diet (Wynn et al., 2013), althoughdon averagedconsiderably less so than A. bahrelghazali (Lee-Thorp et al., 2012). "
"Based on isotope data, trophic adaptations of suids have also been investigated (Harris and Cerling, 2002). However, some researchers argue that suids are unlikely to be grazers because of their bunodont dentition (Harris and Cerling, 2002; Janis et al., 2002) because they consume a variety of resources and their microwear in modern species remained complicated (Kingdon, 1979; Ward and Mainland, 1999; Reed, 2008). Suid microwear patterns imprinted on enamel surfaces are of considerable importance and can reveal significant information. "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The fossiliferous late Early Pleistocene deposits of the Buia Basin (dated to c. 1Ma) at the Danakil depression, contain three different suid species (Kolpochoerus olduvaiensis, Kolpochoerus majus, and Metridiochoerus modestus).These suid taxa are morphologically evolved and are found in association with a diverse large vertebrate faunal assemblage, including the genus Homoand a rich accumulation of Acheulean tools. The anatomic, biometric,morphometric and dental microwear analyses, showsignificant data of dietary traits, habitat and evolutionary changes. In suids, despite their omnivorous diets, microwear study can play a significant role in understanding dietary habits. The results of our study show morphological distinction between the three suid species. Conversely, the microwear patterns recorded on the dental surfaces show overlapping of ecological niches among the species. We believe that their opportunistic feeding and rapid reproduction process might have sustained their survival within the mosaic environments of the Buia Basin in competition with other faunas (other ungulates, carnivores and monkeys) and hominins.
"However, each site is reconstructed as having different combinations and proportions of these habitats. White et al. (1993) and subsequent researchers (e.g., Bonnefille et al., 2004; Reed, 2008; Su and Harrison, 2008; Kimbel and Delezene, 2009; Behrensmeyer and Reed, 2013) have postulated that A. afarensis was a generalist with broad habitat tolerances. Given the variety of habitats associated with A. afarensis, it is unclear what their preferred habitats might be. "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The Upper Laetolil Beds of Laetoli, Tanzania (∼3.6–3.85 Ma) has yielded a large and varied faunal assemblage, including specimens of Australopithecus afarensis. In contrast with contemporaneous eastern African A. afarensis sites in Kenya and Ethiopia, there is no indication of permanent rivers or other large bodies of water at the site, and the apparently drier environment supported a quite different faunal and floral community as reconstructed from the fossil record. Therefore, a deeper understanding of the paleoecology at Laetoli can be illuminating for questions of habitat access and use by A. afarensis, as well as its behavioral flexibility. This paper reviews the substantial body of evidence accumulated that allows for a detailed reconstruction of the Pliocene paleoenvironment of Laetoli. A synthesis of the different lines of evidence suggests that the Upper Laetolil Beds was a mosaic of grassland–shrubland–woodland habitats with extensive woody vegetation in the form of shrubs, thickets and bush, as well as a significant presence of dense woodland habitats along seasonal river courses and around permanent springs. The vegetation during the Pliocene at Laetoli was likely impacted by the strongly seasonal availability of water and the volcanic ash falls that periodically blanketed the area. A comparison with the paleoenvironments of other A. afarensis sites and a review of its inferred dietary behavior suggest that A. afarensis was an ecological generalist that was able to consume a wide variety of dietary resources in mosaic habitats, although their differential abundances at different sites may be indicative of specific ecological requirements that impact their success in particular environments.
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