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Taphonomic Analysis of the Faunal Assemblage Associated with the Hominins (Australopithecus sediba) from the Early Pleistocene Cave Deposits of Malapa, South Africa.

Val A, Dirks PH, Backwell LR, d'Errico F, Berger LR - PLoS ONE (2015)

Bottom Line: Here we present the results of a taphonomic study of the faunal assemblage associated with the hominin fossils (Australopithecus sediba) from the Malapa site.Results include estimation of body part representation, mortality profiles, type of fragmentation, identification of breakage patterns, and microscopic analysis of bone surfaces.This combination of taphonomic features explains the remarkable state of preservation of the hominin fossils as well as some of the associated faunal material.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Evolutionary Studies Institute, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa; Department of Science and Technology/National Research Foundation Centre of Excellence in Palaeosciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.

ABSTRACT
Here we present the results of a taphonomic study of the faunal assemblage associated with the hominin fossils (Australopithecus sediba) from the Malapa site. Results include estimation of body part representation, mortality profiles, type of fragmentation, identification of breakage patterns, and microscopic analysis of bone surfaces. The diversity of the faunal spectrum, presence of animals with climbing proclivities, abundance of complete and/or articulated specimens, occurrence of antimeric sets of elements, and lack of carnivore-modified bones, indicate that animals accumulated via a natural death trap leading to an area of the cave system with no access to mammalian scavengers. The co-occurrence of well preserved fossils, carnivore coprolites, deciduous teeth of brown hyaena, and some highly fragmented and poorly preserved remains supports the hypothesis of a mixing of sediments coming from distinct chambers, which collected at the bottom of the cave system through the action of periodic water flow. This combination of taphonomic features explains the remarkable state of preservation of the hominin fossils as well as some of the associated faunal material.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus

Composition of the fauna from Malapa.Values in brackets represent the minimum number of individuals.
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pone.0126904.g002: Composition of the fauna from Malapa.Values in brackets represent the minimum number of individuals.

Mentions: The faunal assemblage to date, including hominin remains, comprises 1302 fossil specimens (bones, bone fragments, teeth, tooth fragments, horn cores, and carapace fragments; S1 Dataset). Abundant faunal remains are likely to be present inside in situ deposits that have still to be excavated, as well as in ex situ blocks awaiting preparation. It is therefore important to bear in mind that the faunal remains analyzed here represent a small sample of a much larger faunal assemblage at the site. Of the 1302 remains studied, 971 have been identified to family level, while 331 have been classified as unidentifiable mammal remains. The assemblage comprises 18 species of ungulates, carnivores, primates, rodents and birds (Fig 2) [22, 38, 39, 40]. In terms of body size, taxa range from microvertebrates (Elephantulus sp.) [39] to large ungulates (class size V) [22]. Non-hominin primates are represented only by a partial skull assigned to a cercopithecoid (Papio angusticeps) [40]. Carnivores (MNI: 14, MNE: 171, and NISP: 173), ungulates (MNI: 13, MNE: 306, and NISP: 434) and hominins (MNI: 6; MNE: 160, and NISP: 242) dominate the assemblage, with bovids representing the highest of number of identified specimens (Fig 2).


Taphonomic Analysis of the Faunal Assemblage Associated with the Hominins (Australopithecus sediba) from the Early Pleistocene Cave Deposits of Malapa, South Africa.

Val A, Dirks PH, Backwell LR, d'Errico F, Berger LR - PLoS ONE (2015)

Composition of the fauna from Malapa.Values in brackets represent the minimum number of individuals.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4465193&req=5

pone.0126904.g002: Composition of the fauna from Malapa.Values in brackets represent the minimum number of individuals.
Mentions: The faunal assemblage to date, including hominin remains, comprises 1302 fossil specimens (bones, bone fragments, teeth, tooth fragments, horn cores, and carapace fragments; S1 Dataset). Abundant faunal remains are likely to be present inside in situ deposits that have still to be excavated, as well as in ex situ blocks awaiting preparation. It is therefore important to bear in mind that the faunal remains analyzed here represent a small sample of a much larger faunal assemblage at the site. Of the 1302 remains studied, 971 have been identified to family level, while 331 have been classified as unidentifiable mammal remains. The assemblage comprises 18 species of ungulates, carnivores, primates, rodents and birds (Fig 2) [22, 38, 39, 40]. In terms of body size, taxa range from microvertebrates (Elephantulus sp.) [39] to large ungulates (class size V) [22]. Non-hominin primates are represented only by a partial skull assigned to a cercopithecoid (Papio angusticeps) [40]. Carnivores (MNI: 14, MNE: 171, and NISP: 173), ungulates (MNI: 13, MNE: 306, and NISP: 434) and hominins (MNI: 6; MNE: 160, and NISP: 242) dominate the assemblage, with bovids representing the highest of number of identified specimens (Fig 2).

Bottom Line: Here we present the results of a taphonomic study of the faunal assemblage associated with the hominin fossils (Australopithecus sediba) from the Malapa site.Results include estimation of body part representation, mortality profiles, type of fragmentation, identification of breakage patterns, and microscopic analysis of bone surfaces.This combination of taphonomic features explains the remarkable state of preservation of the hominin fossils as well as some of the associated faunal material.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Evolutionary Studies Institute, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa; Department of Science and Technology/National Research Foundation Centre of Excellence in Palaeosciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.

ABSTRACT
Here we present the results of a taphonomic study of the faunal assemblage associated with the hominin fossils (Australopithecus sediba) from the Malapa site. Results include estimation of body part representation, mortality profiles, type of fragmentation, identification of breakage patterns, and microscopic analysis of bone surfaces. The diversity of the faunal spectrum, presence of animals with climbing proclivities, abundance of complete and/or articulated specimens, occurrence of antimeric sets of elements, and lack of carnivore-modified bones, indicate that animals accumulated via a natural death trap leading to an area of the cave system with no access to mammalian scavengers. The co-occurrence of well preserved fossils, carnivore coprolites, deciduous teeth of brown hyaena, and some highly fragmented and poorly preserved remains supports the hypothesis of a mixing of sediments coming from distinct chambers, which collected at the bottom of the cave system through the action of periodic water flow. This combination of taphonomic features explains the remarkable state of preservation of the hominin fossils as well as some of the associated faunal material.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus