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Climate-averaging of terrestrial faunas: an example from the Plio-Pleistocene of South Africa

Hopley, Philip J. and Maslin, Mark A. (2010) Climate-averaging of terrestrial faunas: an example from the Plio-Pleistocene of South Africa. Paleobiology 36 (1), pp. 32-50. ISSN 0094-8373.

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1666/0094-8373-36.1.32

Abstract

Fundamental to the interpretation of bone-bearing faunal deposits is an understanding of the taphonomic processes that have modified the once living fossil community. An often neglected source of bias is that of climate-averaging, which occurs when the duration of bone accumulation exceeds the duration of an individual climatic episode. Tropical and subtropical climate change is dominated by precessional cyclicity (~21,000 year cycle), which controls monsoon rainfall intensity and thus plant communities over time. Under a climate-averaging scenario, the paleoecological characteristics of a faunal deposit represent an amalgamation of more than one phase of the precessional cycle. We investigate the degree of climate-averaging in Plio-Pleistocene bone breccias from South Africa by comparing stable isotope measurements of fossil enamel with the evidence from high-resolution speleothem paleoclimate proxies. We conclude that each of the four faunal assemblages studied are climate-averaged, having formed over a time period in excess of one-third of a precessional cycle (~7000 years). This has implications for the reconstruction of hominin paleoenvironments and estimates of Plio-Pleistocene biodiversity. We hypothesize that climate-averaging may be a common feature of tropical terrestrial vertebrate assemblages throughout the Cenozoic and Mesozoic.

Item Type: Article
School or Research Centre: Birkbeck Schools and Research Centres > School of Science > Earth and Planetary Sciences
Depositing User: Administrator
Date Deposited: 25 Feb 2011 14:15
Last Modified: 17 Apr 2013 12:20
URI: http://eprints.bbk.ac.uk/id/eprint/3141

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