Asian Paleoanthropology

Part of the series Vertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology pp 81-100


Rethinking the Palearctic-Oriental Biogeographic Boundary in Quaternary China

  • Christopher J. NortonAffiliated withDepartment of Anthropology, University of Hawaii Email author 
  • , Changzhu Jin
  • , Yuan Wang
  • , Yingqi Zhang

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This paper reviews the Chinese Quaternary biogeographic record, which has traditionally been divided into the Palearctic (North China) and Oriental (South China) biozones. Notable findings are: (1) Open-steppe taxa (e.g., Equus sanmeniensis, E. yunnanensis, E. hemonius, Mammuthus) are found in the Oriental region during the Early and Late Pleistocene; (2) Beremendia is found in large numbers at the Early Pleistocene Renzidong site located in the Oriental region, though it had previously been known only from the Palearctic biozone; (3) Oriental taxa are found in Middle Pleistocene deposits in northern China, though an increase in the winter monsoon intensity after 520 ka probably forced many of the warm climate taxa back southwards; (4) A higher number of primate taxa is present in the Oriental region, increasing in species diversity from the Early Pleistocene to the Holocene; and (5) Most of central-east China is less than 1,000 m above sea level and served as a continuous migration corridor between the Palearctic and Oriental biogeographic zones during the Quaternary. The general conclusion that we draw from this brief review is that the utility of a strict division between the Palearctic and Oriental biogeographic zones is not valid. In light of fluctuating paleoenvironmental pressures, Palearctic faunas often migrated southward during stadials and Oriental taxa were able to expand northward during interstadials. More detailed reconstructions of the eastern Asian biogeographic record, along with linking the data to the loess-soil, deep sea oxygen isotope, paleobathymetric, and pollen records, will facilitate a deeper understanding of how the paleoenvironment influenced hominin dispersals and evolution during the Quaternary.


China Palearctic Oriental Quaternary Biogeography Migration corridor