Implications of late Quaternary mammalian fauna from Lukenya Hill (south-central Kenya) for paleoenvironmental change and faunal extinctions

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65 Scopus citations

Abstract

Late Quaternary paleoenvironmental data for East Africa are derived primarily from montane sources and thus we know little about the changing composition of East African savannas. Four archaeological sites at Lukenya Hill in the savanna of the Athi-Kapiti Plains of Kenya that date to the last 40,000 yr preserve a large mammalian fauna. The prehistoric hunters concentrated on migratory ungulates and virtually ignored the resident inselberg ungulates throughout the occupation. Faunas of the last glacial maximum are dominated by an extinct small alcelaphine antelope. Arid-adapted ungulates are present that are regionally absent historically, and Pelorovis is present as well. The small alcelaphine and arid-adapted ungulates are absent in the Holocene deposits. This suggests that there was an expansion of dry savannas during the last glacial maximum. The last glacial maximum aridity, combined with a lack of pastoral-set fires, would have resulted in a vegetative mosaic distinct from the present. Dry woody growth and dry and/or tall grass, all of which are poor forage for ungulates, would have been common where seasonally moist short grasslands are presently extant. These conditions favored the large-bodied, highly hypsodont species in Africa that became extinct with the onset of wet conditions during the early Holocene.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)239-255
Number of pages17
JournalQuaternary Research
Volume37
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1992
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)

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