, Volume 96, Issue 5, pp 565-574

The mammal assemblage of the hominid site TM266 (Late Miocene, Chad Basin): ecological structure and paleoenvironmental implications

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Characterizing the paleoenvironmental context of the first hominids is a key issue for understanding their behavioral and morphological evolution. The present study aims at reconstructing the paleoenvironment of the TM266 vertebrate assemblage (Toros-Menalla, Northern Chad) that yielded the earliest known hominid Sahelanthropus tchadensis (7 Ma). For the first time, a quantitative analysis is carried out on the fossil mammal assemblage associated with that hominid. Two complementary approaches were applied: (1) the analysis of the relative abundances of taxa and their habitat preferences; and (2) the study of the distribution of taxa within three meaningful ecovariables: locomotion, feeding preferences, and body mass. The resulting taxonomic and paleoecological structures are used to reconstruct the diversity and the relative extent of the habitats in that part of northern Chad seven million years ago. The paleoenvironment was composed of open areas with dry and humid grasslands, prevailing over wooded habitats. Water was also widely available as freshwater bodies and certainly swamps. It appears that the high habitat diversity of the landscape is a common feature among paleoenvironments associated with early hominids.