, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 163-181
Date: 28 Jun 2007

Dental Microwear Texture Analysis of Varswater Bovids and Early Pliocene Paleoenvironments of Langebaanweg, Western Cape Province, South Africa

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Abstract

The extensive early Pliocene mammalian assemblages at Langebaanweg hold the potential to provide important information about paleoenvironments of the southwestern tip of Africa, an area that today consititutes the Fynbos Biome. We here add to a growing body of literature on the paleoenviornments of the site with an examination of dental microwear textures of bovids from the Varswater Formation. Microwear texture analysis is a new, automated and repeatable approach that measures whole surfaces in three dimensions without observer error. A study of extant ruminants indicates that grazers have more anisotropic microwear surface textures, whereas browsers have more complex microwear surface textures. Fossil bovids recovered from the Muishond Fontein Pelletal Phosphorite Member vary in their microwear textures, with some taxa falling within the extant browser range, some closer to extant grazers, and others in between. These results are consistent with scenarios suggesting mosaic habitats including fynbos vegetation, some (probably C3) grasses, and woodland elements when these fossils were accumulated.