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Herbivore enamel carbon isotopic composition and the environmental context of Ardipithecus at Gona, Ethiopia

Levin, Naomi E. and Simpson, Scott W. and Quade, Jay and Cerling, Thure E. and Frost, Stephen R. (2008) Herbivore enamel carbon isotopic composition and the environmental context of Ardipithecus at Gona, Ethiopia. In: The Geology of Early Humans in the Horn of Africa. Special papers (Geological Society of America). No.446. Geological Society of America , Boulder, CO, pp. 215-234. ISBN 9780813724461.

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Ardipithecus fossils found in late Miocene and early Pliocene deposits in the Afar region of Ethiopia, along with Sahelanthropus tchadensis from Chad and Orrorin tugenensis from Kenya, are among the earliest known human ancestors and are considered to be the predecessors to the subsequent australopithecines (Australopithecus anamensis and Australopithecus afarensis). Current paleoenvironmental reconstructions suggest a wooded habitat for both Ardipithecus kadabba and Ardipithecus ramidus but more open and varied environments for other hominids living in Africa during the late Miocene and early Pliocene. To further evaluate the environmental context of Ardipithecus, we present stable carbon isotope data of 182 fossil herbivore teeth from Ardipithecus-bearing fossil deposits in the Gona Paleoanthropological Research Project area, in the Afar region of Ethiopia. The sampled teeth include representatives of all major fossil herbivore taxa and the majority of the mammalian biomass that lived in the same time and place as the hominids. When compared to extant herbivores from East Africa, the spectra of isotopic results from herbivores found in late Miocene Ar. kadabba and early Pliocene Ar. ramidus sites at Gona are most similar to isotopic values from extant herbivores living in bushland and grassland regions and dissimilar to those from herbivores living in closed-canopy forests, montane forests, and high-elevation grasslands. The tooth enamel isotopic data from fossil herbivores make it clear that Ardipithecus at Gona lived among a guild of animals whose diet was dominated by C_4 grass, and where there is no record of closed-canopy vegetation.

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Additional Information:© 2008 Geological Society of America. Accepted 17 June 2008. The help of many people has made the different stages of this study possible. We foremost thank S. Semaw for his ongoing support of isotopic studies of Gona material, and we are grateful to K. Schick and N. Toth for their overall support of research at Gona. At the Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage (ARCCH) of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, we thank J.H. Mariam, M. Yilma, Y. Beyene, A. Admasu, B. Tadesse, S. Kebede, H. Habtemichacl, and M. Bitew for their assistance with research permits and general support of this work. We appreciate the hospitality of the Bureau of Tourism and Culture of the Afar Regional Stale at Semera and the Mille and Eloha Kebeles. The Ministry of Geology and Mines in Ethiopia was critical for exporting geologic samples. L. Kleinsasser, M. Everett, M. Rogers, D. Stout, T. Kidane, L. Harlacker, W. Mcintosh, and N. Dunbar are all warmly acknowledged for their help and discussion in the field. Our special thanks go to A. Humet and the many other Afar colleagues who facilitate fieldwork at Gona. For the sampling of modern teeth from Ethiopia, we thank the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Department, especially T. Hailu, A. Kebede, and F. Kebede. We also thank S. Yirga for making it possible to sample the collections at the University of Addis Ababa Natural History Museum. A.K. Behrensmeyer, F.H. Brown, J.M. Harris, P. Kalcme, S. Kebede, Z. Kubsa, M.G. Leakey, L.N. Leakey, L. Swedell, the Kenya Wildlife Service, and the National Museums of Kenya have all been critical for ongoing access to modern samples. We thank C. Cook, D. Denman, M. Lott, B. Passey, J. Pigati, and L. Roe for their analytical help and advice. The thoughtful comments of A.K. Behrensmeyer, N. Tabor, J.G. Wynn, and an anonymous reviewer greatly improved this manuscript. The Leakey Foundation, National Geographic Society, Packard Foundation, Wenner-Gren Foundation, Geological Society of America, Sigma Xi, and the National Science Foundation (EAR-0617010, SBR-9910974) funded this research, as did Tim White and the late Clark Howell through the National Science Foundation's Revealing Hominid Origins Initiative (RHOI) (BCS-0321893) program.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Leakey FoundationUNSPECIFIED
National Geographic SocietyUNSPECIFIED
David and Lucile Packard FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Wenner-Gren FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Geological Society of AmericaUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:Gona, Ethiopia, carbon isotopes, tooth enamel, Ardipithecus
Series Name:Special papers (Geological Society of America)
Issue or Number:446
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20150205-132905002
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Official Citation:Naomi E Levin, Scott W Simpson, Jay Quade, Thure E Cerling, and Stephen R Frost Herbivore enamel carbon isotopic composition and the environmental context of Ardipithecus at Gona, Ethiopia Geological Society of America Special Papers, 2008, 446, p. 215-234, doi:10.1130/2008.2446(10)
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:54429
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:05 Feb 2015 22:26
Last Modified:10 Nov 2021 20:33

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