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Early Hominin Paleoecology

Early Hominin Paleoecology

Matt Sponheimer
Julia A. Lee-Thorp
Kaye E. Reed
Peter S. Ungar
Copyright Date: 2013
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  • Book Info
    Early Hominin Paleoecology
    Book Description:

    An introduction to the multidisciplinary field of hominin paleoecology for advanced undergraduate students and beginning graduate students, Early Hominin Paleoecology offers an up-to-date review of the relevant literature, exploring new research and synthesizing old and new ideas. Recent advances in the field and the laboratory are not only improving our understanding of human evolution but are also transforming it. Given the increasing specialization of the individual fields of study in hominin paleontology, communicating research results and data is difficult, especially to a broad audience of graduate students, advanced undergraduates, and the interested public. Early Hominin Paleoecology provides a good working knowledge of the subject while also presenting a solid grounding in the sundry ways this knowledge has been constructed. The book is divided into three sections-climate and environment (with a particular focus on the latter), adaptation and behavior, and modern analogs and models-and features contributors from various fields of study, including archaeology, primatology, paleoclimatology, sedimentology, and geochemistry. Early Hominin Paleoecology is an accessible introduction into this fascinating and ever-evolving field and will be essential to any student interested in pursuing research in human paleoecology. Additional Contributors: David Braun Beth Christensen David J. Daegling Crag Feibel Fred E. Grine Clifford Jolly Naomi E. Levin Mark A. Maslin John Mitani Jay Quade Amy L. Rector Jeanne Sept Lillian M. Spencer Mark Teaford Carol V. Ward Katy E. Wilson

    eISBN: 978-1-60732-225-2
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Part 1: Paleoclimate and Paleoenvironment

    • 1 Faunal Approaches in Early Hominin Paleoecology
      (pp. 3-34)
      Kaye E. Reed, Lillian M. Spencer and Amy L. Rector

      The paleoecology of early hominin species is more than simply reconstructing the habitats in which they existed. Ultimately we would like to know the ecological context before and after speciation and extinction events, and about the interactions of hominins with their environment, including other species. A first step toward this goal is to discover as much information as possible regarding the climate, geomorphology, vegetation physiognomy (habitat structure), and the faunal community. These factors build on one another such that climate, soil properties, and geomorphology are responsible for the vegetation, which, in turn, plays a fundamental role in controlling what other...

    • 2 Facies Analysis and Plio-Pleistocene Paleoecology
      (pp. 35-58)
      Craig S. Feibel

      Sedimentary rocks are the result of chains of complex genetic processes, including particle formation, transport, and accumulation, along with subsequent histories of in situ modification following deposition. Some processes may produce a variety of sedimentary products with only slight variation in the available components or environmental conditions. And some sedimentary products may result from one of a variety of processes or conditions. Typically, however, the suite of characteristics recognizable in sedimentary rocks provides detailed and often unambiguous clues to the processes and environmental conditions during their formation. These suites of characteristics are what enable us to recognize sedimentary facies. Analysis...

    • 3 East African Hominin Paleoecology: Isotopic Evidence from Paleosols
      (pp. 59-102)
      Jay Quade and Naomi E. Levin

      Pedogenic carbonate (CaCO₃) occurs in most arid to semiarid settings globally and is widely recognized in the geological record back at least to the Silurian. Because of its abundance, there is considerable interest in the carbon (δ¹³C) and oxygen (δ¹⁸O)¹ isotopic composition of pedogenic carbonate in paleoenvironmental reconstruction. Early (pre-1984) models of the soil-isotopic system were strongly influenced by studies of carbonate (speleothem) formation in caves, particularly as developed by Hendy (1971) and Hendy et al. (1972). Versions of the cave-based model presented in Salomons et al. (1978) or simpler views found in Magaritz and Amiel (1980) were widely used...

    • 4 Tectonics, Orbital Forcing, Global Climate Change, and Human Evolution in Africa
      (pp. 103-160)
      Mark A. Maslin, Beth Christensen and Katy E. Wilson

      Africa is home to many significant hominin sites (Figure 4.1). If we are to understand the driving forces behind human evolution, it is essential to reconstruct changes in past regional environments in Africa. There are, however, significant difficulties in making correlations between hominin speciation events, local tectonic and environmental changes, and regional and global climate records. Many hypotheses about climate-driven hominin evolution and dispersions in Africa have been based on either short and discontinuous records from on-land formations where the fossils are recovered, or continuous low-resolution records from offshore marine sediment cores; however, neither provides the opportunity for direct, in...

  6. Part 2: Hominin Adaptations and Behavior

    • 5 Early Hominin Posture and Locomotion
      (pp. 163-202)
      Carol V. Ward

      Since the discovery of the Taung child (Dart 1925) paleoanthropologists have understood that the key behavioral and anatomical shift that characterized early human evolution was a change in locomotor adaptation in which a group of hominins was selected to be habitually bipedal. Terrestrial bipedality has served as a significant preadaptation to the acquisition of other key human characteristics, such as toolmaking, life-history changes, and even intelligence (see Flinn et al. 2005). Understanding the nature and timing of the transition to terrestrial bipedality is key to an accurate interpretation of how and why humans evolved.

      This chapter reviews the issues and...

    • 6 The Functional Morphology of Jaws and Teeth: Implications for Understanding Early Hominin Dietary Adaptations
      (pp. 203-250)
      Peter S. Ungar and David J. Daegling

      The famed French politician and gourmet Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1826) once wrote “tell me what you eat, I’ll tell you who you are.” Our diet choices are such an important part of defining us that an entire discipline, nutritional anthropology, has developed to study how and why we are what we eat. Paleoanthropologists take this one step further, suggesting that an understanding of the evolution of human diets can even inform us on how we came to be the way we are as a species.

      Diet is an important key to defining an animal species, its ecological role, and its relationships...

    • 7 Dental Microwear and Paleoecology
      (pp. 251-280)
      Mark F. Teaford, Peter S. Ungar and Frederick E. Grine

      Over the past fifty years, analyses of microscopic wear patterns on teeth, or dental microwear analyses, have shed light on diet and tooth use in living and fossil animals (e.g., Walker 1976; Walker et al. 1978; Rensberger 1978; Puech and Prone 1979; Grine 1981; Rose et al. 1981; Ryan 1981; Walker 1981; Puech 1984a; Teaford and Walker 1984; Rensberger 1986; Teaford 1988; Ryan and Johanson 1989; Ungar 1990; Teaford and Glander 1991; Solounias and Moelleken 1992a; Strait 1993; Daegling and Grine 1994; Ungar 1994; Danielson and Reinhard 1998; King et al. 1999a; Silcox and Teaford 2002; Solounias and Semprebon 2002;...

    • 8 Hominin Ecology from Hard-Tissue Biogeochemistry
      (pp. 281-324)
      Julia A. Lee-Thorp and Matt Sponheimer

      Hominin dietary ecology has been the subject of lively debate for many years, beginning with the discoveries of the first australopiths in Africa, in what seemed to be unlikely habitats for great apes (e.g., Dart 1926, 1957; Robinson 1954). There is good reason for this interest. Large primates spend much of their time searching for or consuming food (e.g., Altmann and Altmann 1970; Teleki 1981; Goodall 1986) and diet is considered one of the most important factors underlying behavioral and ecological differences among extant primates (Ungar 1998; Fleagle 1999). Similarly, the habitats in which they preferred to live are of...

    • 9 The Behavior of Plio-Pleistocene Hominins: Archaeological Perspectives
      (pp. 325-352)
      David R. Braun

      The ecology of early Pleistocene hominins (members of the human clade; Wood and Richmond 2000) is a complicated relationship between cultural mechanisms and biological adaptations. Although skeletal remains of hominins represent the most concrete evidence of human evolution, the archaeological record is the most abundant record of the ecology of our ancestors. The relatively large amount of stone artifacts and associated animal bones allows archaeologists to view hominin behavior through time and across ancient landscapes. The combination of time transgressive (across time periods at one location) and synchronic (across one time horizon at many locations) approaches is unique to an...

  7. Part 3: Analogies and Models

    • 10 Plants and Protopeople: Paleobotanical Reconstruction and Early Hominin Ecology
      (pp. 355-396)
      Jeanne Sept

      Vegetation was a core component of the early hominin landscape, whether providing hominins with staple plant foods, shade, and arboreal refuge, or creating habitats and hiding places for their predators. Trying to reconstruct and understand the paleoecological relationships between hominin species and the plant communities in which they lived is a fascinating scientific challenge because it is dependent on the integration of so many types of modern and ancient data. It is also challenging because direct fossil evidence of ancient plants and vegetation patterns is relatively rare, compared to the vertebrate or invertebrate fossil records; thus many of our reconstructions...

    • 11 Chimpanzee Models of Human Behavioral Evolution
      (pp. 397-436)
      John C. Mitani

      What behavioral changes occurred during human evolution and why? Seeking answers to these questions lies at the heart of anthropological inquiry, but the task is fraught with difficulty. Part of the problem resides in the fact that behavior, unlike skeletal anatomy, does not fossilize, and understanding its evolution requires sources of data beyond the direct evidence furnished by material human remains. The behavior of our closest living relatives, the nonhuman primates, has been recognized for more than fifty years as one potential source of information for reconstructing human behavior (Washburn and DeVore 1961; Washburn 1963). The Order Primates comprises several...

    • 12 Analogies and Models in the Study of the Early Hominins
      (pp. 437-456)
      Clifford J. Jolly

      Paleontologists, including those specializing in the fossil evidence for human evolution, have little prospect of eventually being able to observe a whole, let alone a living, representative of a species represented only by fossil fragments. Especially in vertebrate paleontology, therefore, the task of reconstructing the behavior, ecology, and physiology of “new” forms from fragmentary and indirect evidence is routine and essential, and draws upon advances in neontological biology concerned with function and behavior.

      Elton (2006) has recently provided a thorough and thoughtful historical review of works in which anthropologists have attempted to fill the gaps in our knowledge of the...

  8. Contributors
    (pp. 457-458)
  9. Index
    (pp. 459-470)