The middle Pleistocene fossil mammal assemblage from Lainyamok in the southern Kenya rift has previously been considered the oldest (330-392. ka) African mammal community consisting entirely of extant species, with the dominant bovid tentatively attributed to the southern African blesbok (Damaliscus cf. dorcas). We show that the blesbok-like fossils from Lainyamok belong to an extinct species, described here as Damaliscus hypsodon sp. nov. The D. hypsodon hypodigm includes the previously unnamed small alcelaphine material known from late Pleistocene sites elsewhere in Kenya and Tanzania. Its dental anatomy, together with an ecomorphological analysis of its postcrania, indicates that D. hypsodon grazed in open and arid grassland environments. Although Lainyamok is no longer represented entirely by extant species, the absence of species common earlier in the middle Pleistocene of East Africa suggests substantial faunal turnover between 500 and 400. ka. Damaliscus hypsodon persisted in East Africa until the end of the Pleistocene and its extinction can be attributed to a loss of arid grassland environments at the onset of the Holocene. The fossil evidence from southern Kenya suggests that the development of the taxonomically modern large mammal community was a long-term process characterized by the extinction of grazing specialists, with marked turnover occurring between ~. 500 and 400. ka and near the end of the Pleistocene.
- Faunal turnover
- Quaternary extinctions
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Earth-Surface Processes