Combining isotopic and ecomorphological data to refine bovid paleodietary reconstruction: A case study from the Makapansgat Limeworks hominin locality

Matt Sponheimer, Kaye Reed, Julia A. Lee-Thorp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

92 Scopus citations

Abstract

The relationship between environmental change and hominin evolution remains obscure. For the most part, this stems from the difficulty of reconstructing ancient hominin habitats. Bovids are among the most frequently utilized paleoenvironmental indicators, but little is known about the habitat preferences of extinct taxa. It is generally assumed that fossil bovids both ate the same things and occupied the same habitats as their closest extant relatives. We test the first part of this assumption by reconstructing the diets of seven bovids from Makapansgat Limeworks, South Africa. Since diet and habitat are linked, these reconstructions have implications for our understanding of fossil bovid habitat tolerances. Ecomorphological and stable carbon isotope analyses are employed, allowing us to take advantage of the strengths and overcome the weaknesses of both. In most cases, fossil bovids did have similar diets to their extant relatives, and probably occupied similar habitats. Gazella vanhoepeni and Aepyceros sp., however, were almost exclusive browsers, and not mixed feeders like their living counterparts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)705-718
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of human evolution
Volume36
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Anthropology

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