Woody cover and hominin environments in the past 6-million years

Thure E. Cerling, Jonathan G. Wynn, Samuel A. Andanje, Michael I. Bird, David Kimutai Korir, Naomi E. Levin, William MacE, Anthony N. MacHaria, Jay Quade, Christopher H. Remien

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

241 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The role of African savannahs in the evolution of early hominins has been debated for nearly a century. Resolution of this issue has been hindered by difficulty in quantifying the fraction of woody cover in the fossil record. Here we show that the fraction of woody cover in tropical ecosystems can be quantified using stable carbon isotopes in soils. Furthermore, we use fossil soils from hominin sites in the Awash and Omo-Turkana basins in eastern Africa to reconstruct the fraction of woody cover since the Late Miocene epoch (about 7 million years ago). 13C/ 12C ratio data from 1,300 palaeosols at or adjacent to hominin sites dating to at least 6-million years ago show that woody cover was predominantly less than-40% at most sites. These data point to the prevalence of open environments at the majority of hominin fossil sites in eastern Africa over the past 6-million years.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)51-56
Number of pages6
JournalNature
Volume476
Issue number7358
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 4 2011

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Hominidae
Fossils
Eastern Africa
Soil
Carbon Isotopes
Ecosystem

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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Cerling, T. E., Wynn, J. G., Andanje, S. A., Bird, M. I., Korir, D. K., Levin, N. E., ... Remien, C. H. (2011). Woody cover and hominin environments in the past 6-million years. Nature, 476(7358), 51-56. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature10306

Woody cover and hominin environments in the past 6-million years. / Cerling, Thure E.; Wynn, Jonathan G.; Andanje, Samuel A.; Bird, Michael I.; Korir, David Kimutai; Levin, Naomi E.; MacE, William; MacHaria, Anthony N.; Quade, Jay; Remien, Christopher H.

In: Nature, Vol. 476, No. 7358, 04.08.2011, p. 51-56.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Cerling, TE, Wynn, JG, Andanje, SA, Bird, MI, Korir, DK, Levin, NE, MacE, W, MacHaria, AN, Quade, J & Remien, CH 2011, 'Woody cover and hominin environments in the past 6-million years', Nature, vol. 476, no. 7358, pp. 51-56. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature10306
Cerling TE, Wynn JG, Andanje SA, Bird MI, Korir DK, Levin NE et al. Woody cover and hominin environments in the past 6-million years. Nature. 2011 Aug 4;476(7358):51-56. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature10306
Cerling, Thure E. ; Wynn, Jonathan G. ; Andanje, Samuel A. ; Bird, Michael I. ; Korir, David Kimutai ; Levin, Naomi E. ; MacE, William ; MacHaria, Anthony N. ; Quade, Jay ; Remien, Christopher H. / Woody cover and hominin environments in the past 6-million years. In: Nature. 2011 ; Vol. 476, No. 7358. pp. 51-56.
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