3 years ago

Aridity and hominin environments [Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences]

Aridity and hominin environments [Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences]
Glynis E. Jehle, Kendra L. Chritz, Naomi E. Levin, Scott A. Blumenthal, Jean-Philip Brugal, Thure E. Cerling, Francis H. Brown, John M. Harris

Aridification is often considered a major driver of long-term ecological change and hominin evolution in eastern Africa during the Plio-Pleistocene; however, this hypothesis remains inadequately tested owing to difficulties in reconstructing terrestrial paleoclimate. We present a revised aridity index for quantifying water deficit (WD) in terrestrial environments using tooth enamel δ18O values, and use this approach to address paleoaridity over the past 4.4 million years in eastern Africa. We find no long-term trend in WD, consistent with other terrestrial climate indicators in the Omo-Turkana Basin, and no relationship between paleoaridity and herbivore paleodiet structure among fossil collections meeting the criteria for WD estimation. Thus, we suggest that changes in the abundance of C4 grass and grazing herbivores in eastern Africa during the Pliocene and Pleistocene may have been decoupled from aridity. As in modern African ecosystems, other factors, such as rainfall seasonality or ecological interactions among plants and mammals, may be important for understanding the evolution of C4 grass- and grazer-dominated biomes.

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