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J Hum Evol. 2002 Jan-Feb;42(1-2):95-116.

Stratigraphy, age and environments of the late Miocene Mpesida Beds, Tugen Hills, Kenya.

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  • 1Department of Anthropology, Emory University, 1557 Pierce Drive, Atlanta, Georgia 30322, USA. jkingst@emory.edu

Abstract

Interpretations of faunal assemblages from the late Miocene Mpesida Beds in the Tugen Hills of the Central Kenyan Rift Valley have figured prominently in discussions of faunal turnover and establishment of the modern East African communities. These faunal changes have important implications for the divergence of the human lineage from the African apes ca. 8-5 Ma. While fossil material recovered from the Mpesida Beds has traditionally been analyzed collectively, accumulating evidence indicates that Mpesida facies span the 7-6 Ma interval and are scattered more than 25 km along the eastern flanks of the Tugen Hills. Stratigraphic distinctions between Mpesida facies and younger sediments in the sequence, such as the Lukeino Formation, are not yet fully resolved, further complicating temporal assessments and stratigraphic context of Mpesida facies. These issues are discussed with specific reference to exposures of Mpesida facies at Rurmoch, where large fossil tree fragments were swept up in an ancient ash flow. Preserved anatomical features of the fossil wood as well as estimated tree heights suggest a wet, lowland rainforest in this portion of the rift valley. Stable isotopic analyses of fossil enamel and paleosol components indicate the presence of more open habitats locally. Overlying air-fall tuffs and epiclastic debris, possibly associated with the ash flow, have yielded an assemblage of vertebrate fossils including two teeth belonging to one of the earliest colombines of typical body size known from Africa, after the rather small Microcolobus. Single-crystal, laser-fusion,(40)Ar/(39)Ar dates from a capping trachyte flow as well as tuffs just below the lava contact indicate an age of greater than 6.37 Ma for the fossil material.

Copyright 2002 Academic Press.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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