The paleoecology of the Upper Ndolanya Beds, Laetoli, Tanzania, and its implications for hominin evolution.

Terry Harrison

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


    Evidence from the Pliocene hominin site of Laetoli in northern Tanzania demonstrates that there was a taxonomic turnover of the mammalian fauna between the Upper Laetolil Beds (3.6–3.85 Ma) and the Upper Ndolanya Beds (2.66 Ma). Paranthropus aethiopicus was one of the novel species that appeared locally as part of the restructured fauna. This turnover coincides with a major climatic shift at ~2.8–2.5 Ma, which had an important impact on the local environment and the composition of the faunal community. Investigation of the paleoecology of the Upper Ndolanya Beds provides critical evidence about how the vegetation and fauna at Laetoli, including the hominins, responded to these environmental changes. The preponderance of alcelaphin bovids and the reduced frequency of browsing ungulates, in conjunction with evidence from ecomorphology, mesowear and stable isotopes, indicate that the Upper Ndolanya Beds sample drier habitats with a greater proportion of grasslands compared with the earlier Upper Laetolil Beds. However, paleoecological inferences based on ostrich eggshells, rodents, and terrestrial gastropods present a more complicated picture, indicating instead that Upper Ndolanya habitats were more mesic and dominated by dense woodlands. Such confounding results can be reconciled as a consequence of the differential impact of climatic and environmental change on a global, regional and local scale.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Title of host publicationHuman Paleontology and Prehistory
    Subtitle of host publicationContributions in Honor of Yoel Rak
    EditorsA. Marom, E. Hovers
    Place of PublicationDordrecht
    StatePublished - 2017


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