The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)


Biogeochemical assessment of forest structure and dietary ecology at Rudabánya

LAURA C. EASTHAM1, DAVID R. BEGUN1 and LÁSZLÓ KORDOS3.

1Anthropology, University of Toronto, 2Anthropology, University of Toronto, 3Paleontology, Geological Institute of Hungary

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In Europe, the Late Miocene marks the extinction of many forest adapted faunal forms, including many of the hominids, which diversified successfully during the Middle Miocene. In western and eastern Europe, the decline of hominids occurs in correlation with increasing seasonality and aridity, as well as a shift in vegetation from closed canopy subtropical evergreen to deciduous forest and woodland. In central Europe, floral and faunal data indicate the persistence of humid densely forested conditions throughout this period. The rich Late Miocene hominid locality of Rudabánya in northern-central Hungary provides a unique opportunity to investigate the impact of environmental change on central European hominids. Here we examine forest canopy structure and dietary ecology at the R. II locality at Rudabánya, using trace element (Sr, Ca, Ba), as well as carbon (δ13C) and oxygen (δ18O) stable isotope analyses of fossil tooth enamel. Utilizing these biogeochemical indicators together allows for the discrimination of subtle differences in ecology. The sample includes 10 genera of medium to large bodied herbivores. δ13C values indicate foraging in a range of forested environments, from densely closed canopy forest to more open woodland (-17.0‰ to -9.7‰). Significant differences in trace element (Sr/Ca, Ba/Ca) and stable isotope ratios, confirm the partitioning of resources amongst the sampled taxa. Suids, cervids, and equids show higher mean Sr/Ca and Ba/Ca ratios, as well as δ13C values than bovids, moschids, and tragulids. These results provide insight into the paleoecology of central Europe during a highly dynamic period in hominid evolution.

This research was funded by the Geological Society of America, NSERC, General Motors Women in Science and Mathematics Award, Ontario Graduate Scholarship, the National Geographic Society, and the University of Toronto.

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