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Early Hominin Paleoecology

Edited by Matthew Sponhiemer, Julia A. Lee-Thorpe, Kaye E. Reed, and Peter Ungar

Publication Year: 2013

An introduction to the multidisciplinary field of hominin paleoecology for advanced undergraduate students and beginning graduate students, Early Hominin Paleoecology offers an up‐to‐date review of the relevant literature, exploring new research and synthesizing old and new ideas.

Recent advances in the field and the laboratory are not only improving our understanding of human evolution but are also transforming it. Given the increasing specialization of the individual fields of study in hominin paleontology, communicating research results and data is difficult, especially to a broad audience of graduate students, advanced undergraduates, and the interested public. Early Hominin Paleoecology provides a good working knowledge of the subject while also presenting a solid grounding in the sundry ways this knowledge has been constructed. The book is divided into three sections—climate and environment (with a particular focus on the latter), adaptation and behavior, and modern analogs and models—and features contributors from various fields of study, including archaeology, primatology, paleoclimatology, sedimentology, and geochemistry.

Early Hominin Paleoecology is an accessible entrée into this fascinating and ever-evolving field and will be essential to any student interested in pursuing research in human paleoecology.

Published by: University Press of Colorado


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pp. 1-5


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-x

Our intellectual forebears explicitly grounded their notions of human origins in the ecological realm. Our understanding of human evolution has no doubt advanced since those times. We certainly know more about early hominin biology, diversity, and distributions through time and space. We also have a broadly informed sense of the...

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pp. xi-15

A great many people contributed to this book. We Acknowledgments thank Stanley Ambrose, Marion Bamford, René Bobe, Chris Campisano, Daryl Codron, Sandi Copeland, Darryl de Ruiter, John Kingston, Brian Richmond, Mike Rogers, Mark Spencer, and Alan Walker for helping in one way or another. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on the manuscript entire. Jennifer Leichliter...

Part 1: Paleoclimate and Paleoenvironment

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pp. 1-17

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1. Faunal Approaches in Early Hominin Paleoecology

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pp. 3-34

The paleoecology of early hominin species is more than simply reconstructing the habitats in which they existed. Ultimately we would like to know the ecological context before and after speciation and extinction events, and about the interactions of hominins with their environment, including other species. A first step toward this goal is to discover as much information as possible regarding...

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2. Facies Analysis and Plio-Pleistocene Paleoecology

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pp. 35-58

Sedimentary rocks are the result of chains of complex genetic processes, including particle formation, transport, and accumulation, along with subsequent histories of in situ modification following deposition. Some processes may produce a variety of sedimentary products with only slight variation in the available components or environmental..

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3. East African HomininPaleoecology

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pp. 59-102

Pedogenic carbonate (CaCO3) occurs in most arid to semiarid settings globally and is widely recognized in the geological record back at least to the Silurian. Because of its abundance, there is considerable interest in the carbon (δ13C) and oxygen (δ18O)1 isotopic composition of pedogenic carbonate in paleoenvironmental reconstruction. Early (pre-1984) models of the soil-isotopic system were...

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4. Tectonics, Orbital Forcing, Global Climate Change, and Human Evolution in Africa

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pp. 103-160

Africa is home to many significant hominin sites (Figure 4.1). If we are to understand the driving forces behind human evolution, it is essential to reconstruct changes in past regional environments in Africa. There are, however, significant difficulties in making correlations between hominin speciation events, local tectonic and environmental...

Part 2: Hominin Adaptations and Behavior

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pp. 161-177

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5. Early Hominin Postureand Locomotion

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pp. 163-202

Since the discovery of the Taung child (Dart 1925) paleoanthropologists have understood that the key behavioral and anatomical shift that characterized early human evolution was a change in locomotor adaptation in which a group of hominins was selected to be habitually...

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6. The Functional Morphology of Jaws and Teeth

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pp. 203-250

The famed French politician and gourmet Jean- Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1826) once wrote “tell me what you eat, I’ll tell you who you are.” Our diet choices are such an important part of defining us that an entire discipline, nutritional anthropology, has developed to study how a..

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7. Dental Microwear and Paleoecology

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pp. 251-280

Over the past fifty years, analyses of microscopic wear patterns on teeth, or dental microwear analyses, have shed light on diet and tooth use in living and fossil animals (e.g., Walker 1976; Walker et al. 1978; Rensberger 1978; Puech and Prone 1979; Grine 1981; Rose et al. 1981; Ryan 1981; Walker 1981; Puech 1984a; Teaford and Walker 1984...

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8. Hominin Ecology from Hard-Tissue Biogeochemistry

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pp. 281-324

Hominin dietary ecology has been the subject of lively debate for many years, beginning with the discoveries of the first australopiths in Africa, in what seemed to be unlikely habitats for great apes (e.g., Dart 1926, 1957; Robinson 1954). There is good reason for this interest. Large primates spend much of their time searching for or consuming...

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9. The Behavior of Plio-Pleistocene Hominins

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pp. 325-352

The ecology of early Pleistocene hominins (members of the human clade; Wood and Richmond 2000) is a complicated relationship between cultural mechanisms and biological adaptations. Although skeletal remains of hominins represent the most concrete evidence of human evolution, the archaeological record is the most abundant record of the...

Part 3: Analogies and Models

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pp. 353-369

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10. Plants and Protopeople

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pp. 355-396

Vegetation was a core component of the early hominin landscape, whether providing hominins with staple plant foods, shade, and arboreal refuge, or creating habitats and hiding places for their predators. Trying to reconstruct and understand the paleoecological relationships between...

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11. Chimpanzee Models of Human Behavioral Evolution

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pp. 397-436

What behavioral changes occurred during human evolution and why? Seeking answers to these questions lies at the heart of anthropological inquiry, but the task is fraught with difficulty. Part of the problem resides in the fact that behavior, unlike skeletal anatomy, does not fossilize, and understanding its evolution requires sources of data beyond the...

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12. Analogies and Models in the Study of the Early Hominins

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pp. 437-456

Paleontologists, including those specializing in the fossil evidence for human evolution, have little prospect of eventually being able to observe a whole, let alone a living, representative of a species represented only by fossil fragments. Especially in vertebrate paleontology, therefore, the task of reconstructing the behavior, ecology, and physiology...


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pp. 457-458


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pp. 459-470

E-ISBN-13: 9781607322252
E-ISBN-10: 1607322250
Print-ISBN-13: 9781607322245
Print-ISBN-10: 1607322242

Page Count: 368
Publication Year: 2013