Past and present distributions and community evolution of Muridae and Soricidae from MIS 9 to MIS 1 on the edge of the Palaeo-Agulhas Plain (south coast, South Africa)

Thalassa Matthews, Curtis W. Marean, Naomi Cleghorn

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3 Scopus citations


This paper reviews past and present distributions of murid (mice and rats) and soricid (shrew) species from the Pinnacle Point fossil sites PP5-6N, PP9C, PP13B, and PP30, as well as the coastal site of Knysna Eastern Heads Cave 1. The positioning of these sites on the edge of the Palaeo-Agulhas Plain resulted in the micromammal communities being exposed to rapid landmass changes through sea-level regressions and transgressions, as well as climatic and environmental fluctuations during glacial-interglacial cycling. Together, Pinnacle Point and Knysna preserve a composite coastal sequence from MIS 9 to MIS 1, and provide an opportunity to assess the long term sensitivity of micromammals to environmental change. Modern distributional information for the south coast region was obtained from owl pellet and small-carnivore scat assemblages, and extended the known current distributions of six murids. A uniform suite of micromammals was pervasive throughout all the fossil sites, during both glacial and inter-glacial cycling, and the composition of the majority of fossil micromammal assemblages remained unchanged, despite fluctuations in rainfall amount, seasonality, and the proportion of C3 versus C4 vegetation. This suggests an ability to adapt to, and cope with, climatic and environmental changes with relative ease. The fact that the fossil evidence indicates that many murid taxa occupied different ranges in the past, and, in some cases, had considerably more extensive ranges, and lived in a greater variety of habitats, raises a note of caution regarding using current biogeographies to elucidate palaeoenvironmental and climatic change, and for biogeographic and species distribution modelling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105774
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
StatePublished - May 1 2020



  • Fossil micromammal distributions
  • Holocene
  • Knysna
  • Micromammals
  • Muridae
  • Paleoclimatology
  • Pinnacle point
  • Pleistocene
  • Soricidae
  • Southern Africa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology
  • Geology

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