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J Hum Evol. 2002 Dec;43(6):773-85.

An ecomorphological model of the initial hominid dispersal from Africa.

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Center for Human Evolutionary Studies, Department of Anthropology, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ 08901, USA.


We use new data on the timing and extent of the early Pleistocene dispersal of Homo erectus to estimate diffusion coefficients of early Homo from Africa. These diffusion coefficients indicate more rapid and efficient dispersals than those calculated for fossil Macaca sp., Theropithecus darti, and Mesopithecus pentelicus. Increases in home range size associated with changes in ecology, hominid body size, and possibly foraging strategy may underlay these differences in dispersal efficiency. Ecological data for extant primates and human foragers indicate a close relationship between body size, home range size, and diet quality. These data predict that evolutionary changes in body size and foraging behavior would have produced a 10-fold increase in the home range size of H. erectus compared with that of the australopithecines. These two independent datasets provide a means of quantifying aspects of the dispersal of early Homo and suggest that rapid rates of dispersal appear to have been promoted by changes in foraging strategy and body size in H. erectus facilitated by changes in ecosystem structure during the Plio-Pleistocene.

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