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    Sporadic sampling, not climatic forcing, drives observed early hominin diversity.

    Maxwell, Simon J. and Hopley, Philip J. and Upchurch, P. and Soligo, C. (2018) Sporadic sampling, not climatic forcing, drives observed early hominin diversity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 115 (19), pp. 4891-4896. ISSN 0027-8424.

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    Abstract

    Paleoanthropologists have long been intrigued by the observed patterns of human evolution, including species diversity, and often invoked climatic change as the principal driver of evolutionary change. Here, we investigate whether the early hominin fossil record is of suitable quality to test these climate-forcing hypotheses. Specifically, we compare early hominin diversity to sampling metrics that quantify changes in fossil preservation and sampling intensity between 7 and 1 million years ago. We find that observed diversity patterns are governed by sporadic sampling and do not yield a genuine evolutionary signal. Many more fossil discoveries are required before existing hypotheses linking climate and evolution can be meaningfully tested.The role of climate change in the origin and diversification of early hominins is hotly debated. Most accounts of early hominin evolution link observed fluctuations in species diversity to directional shifts in climate or periods of intense climatic instability. None of these hypotheses, however, have tested whether observed diversity patterns are distorted by variation in the quality of the hominin fossil record. Here, we present a detailed examination of early hominin diversity dynamics, including both taxic and phylogenetically corrected diversity estimates. Unlike past studies, we compare these estimates to sampling metrics for rock availability (hominin-, primate-, and mammal-bearing formations) and collection effort, to assess the geological and anthropogenic controls on the sampling of the early hominin fossil record. Taxic diversity, primate-bearing formations, and collection effort show strong positive correlations, demonstrating that observed patterns of early hominin taxic diversity can be explained by temporal heterogeneity in fossil sampling rather than genuine evolutionary processes. Peak taxic diversity at 1.9 million years ago (Ma) is a sampling artifact, reflecting merely maximal rock availability and collection effort. In contrast, phylogenetic diversity estimates imply peak diversity at 2.4 Ma and show little relation to sampling metrics. We find that apparent relationships between early hominin diversity and indicators of climatic instability are, in fact, driven largely by variation in suitable rock exposure and collection effort. Our results suggest that significant improvements in the quality of the fossil record are required before the role of climate in hominin evolution can be reliably determined.

    Metadata

    Item Type: Article
    School: School of Science > Earth and Planetary Sciences
    Depositing User: Phil Hopley
    Date Deposited: 21 May 2018 10:07
    Last Modified: 28 Feb 2021 08:53
    URI: https://eprints.bbk.ac.uk/id/eprint/22459

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