Send to

Choose Destination
Science. 2018 Nov 23;362(6417):938-941. doi: 10.1126/science.aau2728.

Plio-Pleistocene decline of African megaherbivores: No evidence for ancient hominin impacts.

Author information

Natural History Museum of Utah, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT 84108, USA.
Department of Anthropology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT 84112, USA.
Institute of Human Origins and School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85282, USA.
Department of Anthropology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003, USA.
Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637, USA.
Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA 95064, USA.


It has long been proposed that pre-modern hominin impacts drove extinctions and shaped the evolutionary history of Africa's exceptionally diverse large mammal communities, but this hypothesis has yet to be rigorously tested. We analyzed eastern African herbivore communities spanning the past 7 million years-encompassing the entirety of hominin evolutionary history-to test the hypothesis that top-down impacts of tool-bearing, meat-eating hominins contributed to the demise of megaherbivores prior to the emergence of Homo sapiens We document a steady, long-term decline of megaherbivores beginning ~4.6 million years ago, long before the appearance of hominin species capable of exerting top-down control of large mammal communities and predating evidence for hominin interactions with megaherbivore prey. Expansion of C4 grasslands can account for the loss of megaherbivore diversity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for HighWire
Loading ...
Support Center