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Hominin Palaeoecology: Comparing Fossil Evidence
This project investigates the effectiveness of analysing fossil bovid cranio-dental versus postcranial material in the reconstruction of palaeoecologies. My research will develop a method of environmental assessment that integrates trophic (i.e. cranio-dental) and locomotor (i.e. postcranial) data, therefore providing a composite picture of a habitat that includes information on both what the animals were eating and over what sort of terrain they were locomoting. This will be accomplished by establishing associations between size and dimension ranges for dentition and postcranial elements. Thus, habitat-specific body dimensions, or “morphotypes”, can be linked to dental variations, enabling us to reconstruct the entire palaeoecological niche through analysis of the dental variation represented in a given assemblage. These new habitat prediction models will be used to assess past East African environments. I will apply my faunal analyses to strata in which artefacts and diverse faunal communities are associated, well-preserved and confidently dated, including the hominin-bearing strata of the Hadar Formation in Ethiopia and sites in the Turkana Basin of Kenya. This project will be crucial to our understanding of the behavioural ecology of the earliest tool-making hominin species and will extend our awareness of environmental change, mammalian diversity and hominin evolution in East Africa.