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J Hum Evol. 2007 Nov;53(5):560-73. Epub 2007 Oct 1.

Paleogeographic variations of pedogenic carbonate delta13C values from Koobi Fora, Kenya: implications for floral compositions of Plio-Pleistocene hominin environments.

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  • 1Department of Anthropology, Rutgers University, 131 George Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901, USA. rlquinn@rci.rutger.edu

Abstract

Plio-Pleistocene East African grassland expansion and faunal macroevolution, including that of our own lineage, are attributed to global climate change. To further understand environmental factors of early hominin evolution, we reconstruct the paleogeographic distribution of vegetation (C(3)-C(4) pathways) by stable carbon isotope (delta(13)C) analysis of pedogenic carbonates from the Plio-Pleistocene Koobi Fora region, northeast Lake Turkana Basin, Kenya. We analyzed 202 nodules (530 measurements) from ten paleontological/archaeological collecting areas spanning environments over a 50-km(2) area. We compared results across subregions in evolving fluviolacustrine depositional environments in the Koobi Fora Formation from 2.0-1.5 Ma, a stratigraphic interval that temporally brackets grassland ascendancy in East Africa. Significant differences in delta(13)C values between subregions are explained by paleogeographic controls on floral composition and distribution. Our results indicate grassland expansion between 2.0 and 1.75 Ma, coincident with major shifts in basin-wide sedimentation and hydrology. Hypotheses may be correct in linking Plio-Pleistocene hominin evolution to environmental changes from global climate; however, based on our results, we interpret complexity from proximate forces that mitigated basin evolution. An approximately 2.5 Ma tectonic event in southern Ethiopia and northern Kenya exerted strong effects on paleography in the Turkana Basin from 2.0-1.5 Ma, contributing to the shift from a closed, lacustrine basin to one dominated by open, fluvial conditions. We propose basin transformation decreased residence time for Omo River water and expanded subaerial floodplain landscapes, ultimately leading to reduced proportions of wooded floras and the establishment of habitats suitable for grassland communities.

PMID:
17905411
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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