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Sci Rep ; 5: 14011, 2015 Sep 15.
Artigo em Inglês | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-26369499


Animal movements in the Kenya Rift Valley today are influenced by a combination of topography and trace nutrient distribution. These patterns would have been the same in the past when hominins inhabited the area. We use this approach to create a landscape reconstruction of Olorgesailie, a key site in the East African Rift with abundant evidence of large-mammal butchery between ~1.2 and ~0.5 Ma BP. The site location in relation to limited animal routes through the area show that hominins were aware of animal movements and used the location for ambush hunting during the Lower to Middle Pleistocene. These features explain the importance of Olorgesailie as a preferred location of repeated hominin activity through multiple changes in climate and local environmental conditions, and provide insights into the cognitive and hunting abilities of Homo erectus while indicating that their activities at the site were aimed at hunting, rather than scavenging.

Migração Animal , Hominidae , Paleontologia , Comportamento Predatório , Animais , Fósseis , Quênia
J Hum Evol ; 87: 48-65, 2015 Oct.
Artigo em Inglês | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-26235482


The notion of the physical landscape as an arena of ecological interaction and human evolution is a powerful one, but its implementation at larger geographical and temporal scales is hampered by the challenges of reconstructing physical landscape settings in the geologically active regions where the earliest evidence is concentrated. We argue that the inherently dynamic nature of these unstable landscapes has made them important agents of biological change, creating complex topographies capable of selecting for, stimulating, obstructing or accelerating the latent and emerging properties of the human evolutionary trajectory. We use this approach, drawing on the concepts and methods of active tectonics, to develop a new perspective on the origins and dispersal of the Homo genus. We show how complex topography provides an easy evolutionary pathway to full terrestrialisation in the African context, and would have further equipped members of the genus Homo with a suite of adaptive characteristics that facilitated wide-ranging dispersal across ecological and climatic boundaries into Europe and Asia by following pathways of complex topography. We compare this hypothesis with alternative explanations for hominin dispersal, and evaluate it by mapping the distribution of topographic features at varying scales, and comparing the distribution of early Homo sites with the resulting maps and with other environmental variables.

Distribuição Animal , Evolução Biológica , Hominidae/fisiologia , Animais , Geografia , Geologia , Modelos Biológicos , Paleontologia
J Hum Evol ; 60(3): 281-98, 2011 Mar.
Artigo em Inglês | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-21255818


We examine the links between geomorphological processes, specific landscape features, surface water drainage, and the creation of suitable habitats for hominins. The existence of mosaic (i.e., heterogeneous) habitats within hominin site landscape reconstructions is typically explained using models of the riverine and gallery forest settings, or the pan or lake setting. We propose a different model: the Tectonic Landscape Model (TLM), where tectonic faulting and volcanism disrupts existing pan or river settings at small-scales (∼10-25 km). Our model encompasses the interpretation of the landscape features, the role of tectonics in creating these landscapes, and the implications for hominins. In particular, the model explains the underlying mechanism for the creation and maintenance of heterogeneous habitats in regions of active tectonics. We illustrate how areas with faulting and disturbed drainage patterns would have been attractive habitats for hominins, such as Australopithecus, and other fauna. Wetland areas are an important characteristic of surface water disturbance by fault activity; therefore we examine the tectonically-controlled Okavango Delta (Botswana) and the Nylsvley wetland (South Africa) as modern examples of how tectonics in a riverine setting significantly enhance the faunal and floral biodiversity. While tectonic landscapes may not have been the only type of attractive habitats to hominins, we propose a suite of landscape, faunal, and floral indicators, which when recovered together suggest that site environments may have been influenced by tectonic and/or volcanic activity while hominins were present. For the fossil sites, we interpret the faulting and landscapes around australopithecine-bearing sites of the Middle Awash (Ethiopia) and Makapansgat, Taung, and Sterkfontein (South Africa) to illustrate these relationships between landscape features and surface water bodies. Exploitation of tectonically active landscapes may explain why the paleoenvironmental signals, anatomy, diets, as well as the fauna associated with Australopithecus appear largely heterogeneous through time and space. This hypothesis is discussed in light of potential preservation and time-averaging effects which may affect patterns visible in the fossil record. The model, however, offers insight into the landscape processes of how such habitats are formed. The landscape features and range of habitat conditions, specifically the wetter, down-dropped plains and drier, uplifted flanks persist in close proximity for as long as the fault motion continues. The Tectonic Landscape Model provides an alternative explanation of why mixed habitats may be represented at certain sites over longer timescales.

Evolução Biológica , Geografia , Geologia , Hominidae/fisiologia , Modelos Teóricos , Animais , Botsuana , Clima , Ecossistema , Etiópia , Fósseis , Fenômenos Geológicos , Humanos , Paleontologia , África do Sul , Áreas Alagadas
J Hum Evol ; 60(3): 257-80, 2011 Mar.
Artigo em Inglês | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-20947132


This paper examines the relationship between complex and tectonically active landscapes and patterns of human evolution. We show how active tectonics can produce dynamic landscapes with geomorphological and topographic features that may be critical to long-term patterns of hominin land use, but which are not typically addressed in landscape reconstructions based on existing geological and paleoenvironmental principles. We describe methods of representing topography at a range of scales using measures of roughness based on digital elevation data, and combine the resulting maps with satellite imagery and ground observations to reconstruct features of the wider landscape as they existed at the time of hominin occupation and activity. We apply these methods to sites in South Africa, where relatively stable topography facilitates reconstruction. We demonstrate the presence of previously unrecognized tectonic effects and their implications for the interpretation of hominin habitats and land use. In parts of the East African Rift, reconstruction is more difficult because of dramatic changes since the time of hominin occupation, while fossils are often found in places where activity has now almost ceased. However, we show that original, dynamic landscape features can be assessed by analogy with parts of the Rift that are currently active and indicate how this approach can complement other sources of information to add new insights and pose new questions for future investigation of hominin land use and habitats.

Evolução Biológica , Geografia/métodos , Geologia/métodos , Hominidae/fisiologia , Modelos Teóricos , Animais , Clima , Ecossistema , Etiópia , Fenômenos Geológicos , Humanos , Paleontologia , África do Sul
Science ; 328(5975): 205-8, 2010 Apr 09.
Artigo em Inglês | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-20378812


We describe the geological, geochronological, geomorphological, and faunal context of the Malapa site and the fossils of Australopithecus sediba. The hominins occur with a macrofauna assemblage that existed in Africa between 2.36 and 1.50 million years ago (Ma). The fossils are encased in water-laid, clastic sediments that were deposited along the lower parts of what is now a deeply eroded cave system, immediately above a flowstone layer with a U-Pb date of 2.026 +/- 0.021 Ma. The flowstone has a reversed paleomagnetic signature and the overlying hominin-bearing sediments are of normal polarity, indicating deposition during the 1.95- to 1.78-Ma Olduvai Subchron. The two hominin specimens were buried together in a single debris flow that lithified soon after deposition in a phreatic environment inaccessible to scavengers.

Fósseis , Sedimentos Geológicos , Hominidae , Animais , Fenômenos Geológicos , Datação Radiométrica , África do Sul