Advertisement

Paleoenvironments of Laetoli, Tanzania as Determined by Antelope Habitat Preferences

  • Laura C. BishopEmail author
  • Thomas W. Plummer
  • Fritz Hertel
  • Kris Kovarovic
Chapter
Part of the Vertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology Series book series (VERT)

Abstract

We examined the fossil remains of antelope (Mammalia: Bovidae) postcrania recovered from the Upper Laetolil Beds and the overlying Upper Ndolanya Beds in northern Tanzania. We used analyses of the ecomorphology of extinct antelopes to determine their habitat preferences. The most common postcranial elements - the phalanges, astragali, and distal radii - were examined. A total sample of 446 specimens was analyzed. Changes in the relative proportion of habitat preferences through time are suggestive of temporal fluctuations in habitat availability. As has been noted elsewhere, the mammals from Laetoli do not show the expected distribution of body sizes, so this paper also examined how such size biases, assumed to be taphonomic in origin, might have affected the reconstructions proposed here. We conclude that, on the basis of habitat preferences of the antelopes recovered from Laetoli, there is evidence for the continuous regional presence of woodland and forest throughout deposition of the Upper Laetolil Beds. Antelopes preferring forest and heavy cover habitats dominate the assemblage. Antelopes that locomoted principally in open and light cover habitats are largely in the minority, with a combined frequency never exceeding around 25% of the total in each stratigraphic unit of the Upper Laetolil Beds. The relative proportions of heavy cover and forest preferring antelopes in particular are likely affected by body size biases caused by taphonomic processes active during the deposition of the Upper Laetolil Beds, which favoured the preservation of the postcrania of smaller antelopes. During the formation of the Upper Ndolanya Beds, the proportion of antelopes preferring more open habitats is greatly increased, although forest-preferring antelopes are still present. The conclusion that forest and woodland were always present throughout the sequence is robust.

Keywords

Ecomorphology Bovidae Postcranials Pliocene 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The authors thank Terry Harrison for the invitation to work on this material and to contribute to this volume. Research permission was obtained from the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology. LCB and KK acknowledge generous support from The Leverhulme Trust. TP acknowledges support from the Professional Staff Congress-City University of New York Research Award Program. Thanks also to the staff of the numerous museums where we measured antelopes for this study, particularly the American Museum of Natural History, the National Museum of Natural History, and The Natural History Museum (London). At the National Museum of Tanzania in Dar es Salaam, Amandus Kweka provided endless support and hospitality. Thanks to two anonymous reviewers whose comments helped us improve the manuscript. We are grateful to Julien Louys for assistance in data collection and analysis.

References

  1. Andrews, P. J. (1989). Palaeoecology of Laetoli. Journal of Human Evolution, 18, 173–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Andrews, P., Lord, J., & Nesbit Evans, E. M. (1979). Patterns of ecological diversity in fossil and modern mammalian faunas. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 11, 177–205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bishop, L. C. (1994). Pigs and the ancestors: Hominids, suids, and environments during the Plio-Pleistocene of East Africa. Ph.D. dissertation, Yale University, New Haven.Google Scholar
  4. Bishop, L. C. (1999). Suid paleoecology and habitat preference at African Pliocene and Pleistocene hominid localities. In T. G. Bromage & F. Schrenk (Eds.), African biogeography, climate change and early hominid evolution (pp. 216–225). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Bishop, L. C., Hill, A., & Kingston, J. (1999). Paleoecology of Suidae from the Tugen Hills, Baringo, Kenya. In P. Andrews & P. Banham (Eds.), Late Cenozoic environments and hominid evolution: A tribute to Bill Bishop (pp. 99–111). London: Geological Society.Google Scholar
  6. Brain, C. K. (1981). The hunters or the hunted. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  7. Bunn, H. T. (1986). Patterns of skeletal representation and hominid subsistence activities at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania, and Koobi Fora, Kenya. Journal of Human Evolution, 15, 673–690.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. DeGusta, D., & Vrba, E. S. (2003). A method for inferring paleohabitats from the functional morphology of bovid astragali. Journal of Archaeological Science, 30, 1009–1022.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. DeGusta, D., & Vrba, E. S. (2005). Methods for inferring paleohabitats from the functional morphology of bovid phalanges. Journal of Archaeological Science, 32, 1099–1113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Ditchfield, P., & Harrison, T. (2011). Sedimentology, lithostratigraphy and depositional history of the Laetoli area. In T. Harrison (Ed.), Paleontology and geology of Laetoli: Human evolution in context (Geology, geochronology, paleoecology, and paleoenvironment, vol. 1, pp. 47–76). Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  11. Estes, R. D. (1991). The behavior guide to African mammals. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  12. Gentry, A. W. (1970). The Bovidae (Mammalia) of the Fort Ternan fossil fauna. In L. S. B. Leakey & R. J. G. Savage (Eds.), Fossil vertebrates of Africa (vol. 2, pp. 243–323). London: Academic.Google Scholar
  13. Hernesniemi, E., Evans, A. R., Giaourtsakis, I. X., & Fortelius, M. (2011). Rhinocerotidae. In T. Harrison (Ed.), Paleontology and geology of Laetoli: Human evolution in context (Fossil hominins and the associated fauna, vol. 2, pp. 275–293). Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  14. James, M. (1985). Classification algorithms. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  15. Kaiser, T. M. (2011). Feeding ecology and niche partitioning of the Laetoli ungulate faunas. In T. Harrison (Ed.), Paleontology and geology of Laetoli: Human evolution in context (Geology, geochronology, paleoecology and paleoenvironment, vol. 1, pp. 329–354). Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  16. Kappelman, J. (1986). The paleoecology and chronology of the middle Miocene hominoids from the Chinji Formation of Pakistan. Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard University, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  17. Kappelman, J. (1988). Morphology and locomotor adaptations of the bovid femur in relation to habitat. Journal of Morphology, 198, 119–130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kappelman, J. (1991). The paleoenvironment of Kenyapithecus at Fort Ternan. Journal of Human Evolution, 20, 95–129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kappelman, J., Plummer, T. W., Bishop, L. C., Duncan, A., & Appleton, S. (1997). Bovids as indicators of Plio-Pleistocene paleoenvironments of East Africa. Journal of Human Evolution, 32, 95–129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kingston, J., & Harrison, T. (2007). Isotopic dietary reconstructions of Pliocene herbivores at Laetoli: Implications for early hominin paleoecology. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 243, 272–306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kovarovic, K., & Andrews, P. (2007). Bovid postcranial ecomorphological survey of the Laetoli paleoenvironment. Journal of Human Evolution, 52, 663–680.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kovarovic, K., & Andrews, P. (2011). Environmental change within the Laetoli fossiliferous sequence: Vegetation catenas and bovid ecomorphology. In T. Harrison (Ed.), Paleontology and geology of Laetoli: Human evolution in context (Geology, geochrono­logy, paleoecology and paleoenvironment, vol. 1, pp. 367–380). Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  23. Leakey, M. D., & Harris, J. M. (Eds.). (1987). Laetoli: A Pliocene site in northern Tanzania. Oxford: Clarendon.Google Scholar
  24. Lewis, M. E. (1997). Carnivoran paleoguilds of Africa: Implications for hominid food procurement strategies. Journal of Human Evolution, 32, 257–288.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Plummer, T. W., & Bishop, L. C. (1994). Hominid paleoecology at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania as indicated by antelope remains. Journal of Human Evolution, 29, 321–362.Google Scholar
  26. Plummer, T. W., Bishop, L. C., & Hertel, F. (2008). Habitat preference of extant African bovids based on astragalus morphology: Operationalizing ecomorphology for palaeoenvironmental reconstruction. Journal of Archaeological Science, 35, 3016–3027.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Reed, K. E. (1997). Early hominid evolution and ecological change through the African Plio-Pleistocene. Journal of Human Evolution, 32, 289–322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Reed, K. E. (1998). Using large mammal communities to examine ecological and taxonomic organization and predict vegetation in extant and extinct assemblages. Paleobiology, 32, 384–408.Google Scholar
  29. Reyment, R. A. (1991). Multidimensional palaeobiology. New York: Pergamon.Google Scholar
  30. Rossouw, L., & Scott, L. (2011). Phytoliths and pollen, the microscopic plant remains in Pliocene volcanic sediments around Laetoli, Tanzania. In T. Harrison (Ed.), Paleontology and geology of Laetoli: Human evolution in context (Geology, geochronology, paleoecology and paleoenvironment, vol. 1, pp. 201–215). Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  31. Scott, K. M. (1979). Adaptation and allometry in bovid postcranial proportions. Ph.D. dissertation, Yale University, New Haven.Google Scholar
  32. Scott, K. (1985). Allometric trends and locomotor adaptations in the Bovidae. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, 197, 197–288.Google Scholar
  33. Spencer, L. (1997). Dietary adaptations of Plio-Pleistocene Bovidae: Implications for hominid habitat use. Journal of Human Evolution, 32, 201–228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Sponheimer, M., Reed, K. E., & Lee-Thorp, J. A. (1999). Combining isotopic and ecomorphological data to refine bovid paleodietary reconstruction: A case study from the Makapansgat Limeworks hominin locality. Journal of Human Evolution, 36, 705–718.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Su, D. F. (2005). The paleoecology of Laetoli, Tanzania: Evidence from the mammalian fauna of the Upper Laetolil Beds. Ph.D. dissertation. New York University, New York.Google Scholar
  36. Su, D. F., & Harrison, T. (2007). The paleoecology of the Upper Laetolil Beds at Laetoli: A reconsideration of the large mammal evidence. In R. Bobe, Z. Alemseged, & A. K. Behrensmeyer (Eds.), Hominin environments in the East African Pliocene: An assessment of the faunal evidence (pp. 279–313). Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Su, D. F., & Harrison, T. (2008). Ecological implications of the relative rarity of fossil hominins at Laetoli. Journal of Human Evolution, 55, 672–681.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Van der Klaauw, C. J. (1948). Ecological studies and reviews. IV. Ecological Morphology. Bibliotheca Biotheoretica, 4, 27–111.Google Scholar
  39. Werdelin, L., & Lewis, M. E. (2001). A revision of the genus Dinofelis (Mammalia, Felidae). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 132, 147–258.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laura C. Bishop
    • 1
    Email author
  • Thomas W. Plummer
    • 2
  • Fritz Hertel
    • 3
  • Kris Kovarovic
    • 4
  1. 1.School of Natural Sciences and Psychology, Research Centre in Evolutionary Anthropology and PalaeoecologyLiverpool John Moores UniversityLiverpoolUK
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologyQueens College, CUNY & NYCEPFlushingUSA
  3. 3.Department of BiologyCalifornia State UniversityNorthridgeUSA
  4. 4.Department of AnthropologyDurham UniversityDurhamUK

Personalised recommendations