Dietary versatility of Early Pleistocene hominins

  • New geochemical data from the Malawi Rift (Chiwondo Beds, Karonga Basin) fill a major spatial gap in our knowledge of hominin adaptations on a continental scale. Oxygen (δ18O), carbon (δ13C), and clumped (Δ47) isotope data on paleosols, hominins, and selected fauna elucidate an unexpected diversity in the Pleistocene hominin diet in the various habitats of the East African Rift System (EARS). Food sources of early Homo and Paranthropus thriving in relatively cool and wet wooded savanna ecosystems along the western shore of paleolake Malawi contained a large fraction of C3 plant material. Complementary water consumption reconstructions suggest that ca. 2.4 Ma, early Homo (Homo rudolfensis) and Paranthropus (Paranthropus boisei) remained rather stationary near freshwater sources along the lake margins. Time-equivalent Paranthropus aethiopicus from the Eastern Rift further north in the EARS consumed a higher fraction of C4 resources, an adaptation that grew more pronounced with increasing openness of the savanna setting after 2 Ma, while Homo maintained a high versatility. However, southern African Paranthropus robustus had, similar to the Malawi Rift individuals, C3-dominated feeding strategies throughout the Early Pleistocene. Collectively, the stable isotope and faunal data presented here document that early Homo and Paranthropus were dietary opportunists and able to cope with a wide range of paleohabitats, which clearly demonstrates their high behavioral flexibility in the African Early Pleistocene.

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Author:Tina Lüdecke, Ottmar Kullmer, Ulrike Wacker, Oliver Sandrock, Jens FiebigGND, Friedemann Schrenk, Andreas Mulch
Pubmed Id:
Parent Title (English):Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Publisher:National Acad. of Sciences
Place of publication:Washington, DC
Contributor(s):Thure E. Cerling
Document Type:Article
Year of Completion:2018
Date of first Publication:2018/12/10
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Release Date:2019/07/04
Tag:Malawi Rift; clumped isotopes; hominin adaptation; paleodiet; paleoecology
Page Number:6
First Page:13330
Last Page:13335
Copyright © 2018 the Author(s). Published by PNAS. This open access article is distributed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License 4.0 (CC BY-NC-ND).
Institutes:Geowissenschaften / Geographie / Geowissenschaften
Angeschlossene und kooperierende Institutionen / Senckenbergische Naturforschende Gesellschaft
Biowissenschaften / Institut für Ökologie, Evolution und Diversität
Fachübergreifende Einrichtungen / Biodiversität und Klima Forschungszentrum (BiK-F)
Wissenschaftliche Zentren und koordinierte Programme / Zentrum für Interdisziplinäre Afrikaforschung (ZIAF)
Dewey Decimal Classification:5 Naturwissenschaften und Mathematik / 55 Geowissenschaften, Geologie / 550 Geowissenschaften
5 Naturwissenschaften und Mathematik / 57 Biowissenschaften; Biologie / 570 Biowissenschaften; Biologie
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - Namensnennung-Nicht kommerziell - Keine Bearbeitung 4.0