The carnivore guild circa 1.98 million years: biodiversity and implications for the palaeoenvironment at Malapa, South Africa
- 223 Downloads
The Malapa fossil assemblage was likely accumulated as a result of a death trap. Given this, the carnivoran species found there must have lived in proximity, close proximity for the smaller species, to the site, offering the possibility of expanding our interpretation of the habitats available to Australopithecus sediba via pinpoint palaeoenvironmental interpretation. To date, the identified carnivorans are the most abundant identified non-hominin taxa at Malapa, and given their territorial behaviour, are important when interpreting the palaeoecology of the site. The extinct false saber-tooth felid (Dinofelis barlowi) suggests that the presence of closed environments and the ancestral form of modern water mongoose (Atilax mesotes) indicates the presence of water in the vicinity. Canids generally support the presence of open habitats. The first appearance in the fossil record of Vulpes skinneri and Felis nigripes indicates the presence of drier open grassland/scrub. The Malapa carnivorans support widespread shifts in carnivore turnover circa 2.0 Ma in Africa and suggest, together with other lines of evidence, the occurrence of a regional transitioning environment during the time of Au. sediba.
KeywordsPaleoecology Carnivore Malapa Australopithecus sediba
We thank the South African Heritage Resource agency for the permits to work on the Malapa site and the Nash family for granting access to the Malapa site and continued support of research on their reserve. Grateful appreciation goes to Sally Reynolds and Jean-Philippe Brugal for their reviews and comments, which improved the manuscript. Research by LW is funded by the Swedish Research Council. Additional support for MB was provided by PAST (Palaeontological Scientific Trust). AIRH is supported by Australian Research Council Future Fellowship FT120100399.
Compliance with ethical standards
Please see acknowledgements.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
- Adams, J. W., Herries, A. I. R., Hemingway, J., Kegley, A. D. T., Kgasi, L., Hopley, P., Reade, H., Potze, S., & Thackeray, J. F. (2010). Initial fossil discoveries from Hoogland, a new Pliocene primate-bearing karstic system in Gauteng Province, South Africa. Journal of Human Evolution, 59(6), 685–691. doi: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2010.07.021.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Bamford, M. (1999). Pliocene fossil woods from an early hominid cave deposit, Sterkfontein, South Africa. South African Journal of Science, 95(May), 231–237.Google Scholar
- Bamford, M. K., Neumann, F. H., Pereira, L. M., Scott, L., Dirks, P. H. G. M., & Berger, L. R. (2010). Botanical remains from a coprolite from the Pleistocene hominin site of Malapa, Sterkfontein Valley, South Africa. Palaeontologia Africana, 45, 23–28.Google Scholar
- Berger, L. R., & Lacruz, R. S. (2003). Preliminary report on the first excavations at the new fossil site of Motsetse, Gauteng, South Afrcia. South African Journal of Science, 99(May/June), 279–282.Google Scholar
- Brain, C. K. (1981). The hunters or the hunted? An introduction to African cave taphonomy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Broom, R. (1948). Some South African Pliocene and Pleistocene mammals. Annals of the Transvaal Museum, 21, 47–49.Google Scholar
- Henry, A. G., Ungar, P. S., Passey, B. H., Sponheimer, M., Rossouw, L., Bamford, M., & Berger, L. (2012). The diet of Australopithecus sediba. Nature, 487(7405), 90–93. http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v487/n7405/abs/nature11185.html - supplementary-information.Google Scholar
- Herries, A. I. R., Hopley, P. J., Adams, J. W., Curnoe, D., & Maslin, M. A. (2010). Letter to the editor: geochronology and palaeoenvironments of Southern African hominin-bearing localities-A reply to Wrangham et al., 2009. “Shallow-water habitats as sources of fallback foods for hominins”. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 143(4), 640–646. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.21389.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Herries, A. I. R., Pickering, R., Adams, J. W., Curnoe, D., Warr, G., Latham, A. G., & Shaw, J. (2013). A multi-disciplinary perspective on the age of Australopithecus in southern Africa. In K. E. Reed, J. G. Fleagle, & R. E. Leakey (Eds.), Paleobiology of Australopithecus (pp. 21–40). Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Hunter, L., & Barrett, P. (2011). A field guide to the carnivores of the world. Cape Town: Struik Nature.Google Scholar
- Lacruz, R., Turner, A., & Berger, L. R. (2006). New Dinofelis (Carnivora: Machairodontinae) remains from Sterkfontein Valley sites and a taxonomic revision of the genus in southern Africa. Annals of the Transvaal Museum, 43, 89–106.Google Scholar
- Lariviére, S., & Calzada, J. (2001). Genetta genetta. Mammalian Species. The American Society of Mammalogists, 680, 1–6.Google Scholar
- Lewis, M. E. (1995). Plio/Pleistocene carnivoran guilds: implications for hominid paleoecology. New York: State University of New York at Stony Brook (Ph.D.).Google Scholar
- Lewis, M. E., & Werdelin, L. (2010). Patterns of evolution in eastern and southern African Carnivora. Paper presented at the Program and Abstracts, seventieth annual meeting, Society of Vertebrate Paleontology.Google Scholar
- Macdonald, D. W., Loveridge, A. J., & Nowell, K. (2010). Dramatis personae: an introduction to the wild felids. In D. W. MacDonald & A. J. Loveridge (Eds.), Biology and conservation of wild felids (pp. 3–58). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Mills, M. G. L., & Mills, M. E. J. (1978). The diet of the Brown Hyaena Hyaena brunnea in the Southern Kalahari. Koedoe, 21, 125–149.Google Scholar
- Reynolds, S. C., & Kibii, J. M. (2011). Sterkfontein at 75: review of palaeoenvironments, fauna and archaeology from the hominin site of Sterkfontein (Gauteng Province, South Africa). Palaeontologia Africana, 46, 59–98.Google Scholar
- Silwa, A., Herbst, M., & Mills, M. G. L. (2010). Black-footed cats (Felis nigripes) and African wildcats (Felis sylvestris): a comparison of two small felids from South African arid lands. In D. W. Macdonald & A. J. Loveridge (Eds.), Biology and conservations of wild felids (pp. 537–558). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Turner, A., & Antón, M. (1997). The big cats and their fossil relatives. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
- Vrba, E. S. (1982). Biostratigraphy and chronology, based on Bovidae, of southern hominid-associated assemblages: Makapansgat, Sterkfontein, Taung, Kromdraai, Swartkrans; also Elandsfontein (Saldanha), Broken Hill (now Kabwe) and Cave of Hearths. Nice: Paper presented at the Proceedings Congress International de Paleontologie Humaine.Google Scholar
- Wiesel, I. (2006). Predatory and foraging behaviour of brown hyenas (Parahyaena brunnea (Thunberg, 1820)) at Cape Fur Seal (Arctocephalus pusillus pusillus Schreber, 1776) Colonies. Hamburg: University of Hamburg (PhD).Google Scholar