Paleoecology: An Adequate Window on the Past?

  • Thorolf Hardt
  • Peter R. Menke
  • Britta Hardt
Living reference work entry


Starting from Ernst Haeckel’s famous definition of ecology, our review considers the premises and the meaning of paleoecological research. Unlike current ecology, paleoecology has to pay more attention when dealing with “real” reconstructions. The concept of uniformitarianism is presented and demonstrates the importance of philosophical constructs in scientific work. Middle-range theory attempts to filter out false conclusions. Abiotic factors have had a strong influence on adaptive evolution; volcanism, tectonics, and climate exemplify this. Subsequently, we address biotic aspects of fossil findings, and in this context we discuss taphonomy, stratigraphic research, and interactions between floral and faunal environment. In a synthesis, we present three cross sections of human evolution at different time horizons (early-middle-late) to exemplify the inevitable multidisciplinarity of paleoecology, and we present some key events that probably altered the direction of radiations among hominids. Obviously, human evolution is not a special kind of evolution; it follows the rules of evolutionary biology, and hence depends undoubtedly on environmental influences.


Late Miocene Rift Valley Gallery Forest Fossil Assemblage African Climate 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.MuseumSenckenberg Gesellschaft für NaturforschungFrankfurt am MainGermany
  2. 2.Institut für Anthropologie (1050)Johannes Gutenberg-Universität MainzMainzGermany

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