The 84th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2015)

Quantifying Hominin Ecospace to reconstruct early hominin dispersal routes


1ROCEEH Project, Senckenberg Research Institute, 2ROCEEH Project, University of Tübingen

March 27, 2015 8:15, Grand Ballroom D Add to calendar

Regional gaps in our knowledge of hominin distribution often reflect gaps in our functional and geographical knowledge of suitable living conditions of early hominins. We utilize the concepts of "range expansions", "Hominin Resource space" and, most significant here, “Hominin Ecospace” to reconstruct early hominin dispersal routes and thus identifying potential target regions for future palaeoanthropological field work.

Hominin Ecospace encompasses the biotic and abiotic environment of hominins, including climate, vegetation, fauna and landscape features. We identify resources, competitors and environmental conditions characterizing the specific ecospace of selected hominin taxa. Hominin dispersal may either be ecologically constrained by the distribution of suitable vs. unsuitable habitats or it may be restricted by topographic features like mountain ranges or sea straits. Ecological and topographical barriers likewise illustrate natural barriers for hominin dispersal.

Our case studies show that the concept of Hominin Ecospace is a powerful tool in determining suitable regions for early hominin expansions and occurences. In South Eastern Africa it led to the discovery of earliest Homo and Paranthropus lineages with significant implications for their palaeobiogeographical history. Based on our Ecospasce model, proxies for hominin dispersal routes are inferred from the distribution of forests and mosaic landscapes in Southern Caucasus and from diversity structures of faunal communities in the Pleistocene of Southeastern Asia.

Research was funded by Heidelberg Academy of Sciences (ROCEEH-Project)