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J Hum Evol. 2007 Jun;52(6):663-80. Epub 2007 Jan 27.

Bovid postcranial ecomorphological survey of the Laetoli paleoenvironment.

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  • 1Department of Anthropology, University College London, 14, Taviton Street, London WC1H 0BW, United Kingdom. k.kovarovic@ucl.ac.uk <k.kovarovic@ucl.ac.uk>

Abstract

Here we report on a bovid postcranial ecomorphological survey of the fossil assemblages from the Plio-Pleistocene site of Laetoli, Tanzania. A global sample of extant bovids (n=205), cervids (n=14), and tragulids (n=5) from seven known habitat types constitutes the comparative data set. All long bones, carpals, tarsals, and phalanges were measured. Discriminant function analyses (DFA) were conducted in order to evaluate the ability of each element to accurately predict habitat affiliation. The baseline of chance accuracy for DFAs (i.e., the percentage of correct predictions that can be expected when habitat assignments are randomized) served as the cut-off point between good and bad habitat predictors. A total of 22 elements yielded percentages of correct classification over the baseline of accuracy, and these were extended to the Laetoli fossil assemblages. Summaries of the number of specimens predicted to belong to each habitat type were used to reconstruct the paleoenvironment. The results indicate that, at the time of the deposition of the Laetolil Beds, the area had heavy woodland-bushland cover with some lighter tree and bush cover and grass available. These results lend strong support to recent suggestions that the area was on the more wooded end of the habitat spectrum, contra initial conclusions that it represented a mosaic of more open habitats. The results also indicate that, during the deposition of the Ndolanya Beds, the environment had become more open and the grassland component of the environment had increased significantly. Light woodland-bushland and an abundance of grass cover dominated the landscape, although tracts of land with denser vegetation likely existed. This conclusion agrees with earlier suggestions that the area was a semiarid bushland.

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