UZH-Logo

Hominins, sedges, and termites: new carbon isotope data from the Sterkfontein valley and Kruger National Park


Sponheimer, M; Lee-Thorp, J A; de Ruiter, D J; Codron, D; Codron, J; Baugh, A T; Thackeray, F (2005). Hominins, sedges, and termites: new carbon isotope data from the Sterkfontein valley and Kruger National Park. Journal of Human Evolution, 48(3):301-312.

Abstract

Stable carbon isotope analyses have shown that South African australopiths did not have exclusively frugivorous diets, but also consumed significant quantities of C4 foods such as grasses, sedges, or animals that ate these foods. Yet, these studies have had significant limitations. For example, hominin sample sizes were relatively small, leading some to question the veracity of the claim for australopith C4 consumption. In addition, it has been difficult to determine which C4 resources were actually utilized, which is at least partially due to a lack of stable isotope data on some purported australopith foods. Here we begin to address these lacunae by presenting carbon isotope data for 14 new hominin specimens, as well as for two potential C4 foods (termites and sedges). The new data confirm that non-C3 foods were heavily utilized by australopiths, making up about 40% and 35% of Australopithecus and Paranthropus diets respectively. Most termites in the savanna-woodland biome of the Kruger National Park, South Africa, have intermediate carbon isotope compositions indicating mixed C3/C4 diets. Only 28% of the sedges in Kruger were C4, and few if any had well-developed rhizomes and tubers that make some sedges attractive foods. We conclude that although termites and sedges might have contributed to the C4 signal in South African australopiths, other C4 foods were also important. Lastly, we suggest that the consumption of C4 foods is a fundamental hominin trait that, along with bipedalism, allowed australopiths to pioneer increasingly open and seasonal environments.

Stable carbon isotope analyses have shown that South African australopiths did not have exclusively frugivorous diets, but also consumed significant quantities of C4 foods such as grasses, sedges, or animals that ate these foods. Yet, these studies have had significant limitations. For example, hominin sample sizes were relatively small, leading some to question the veracity of the claim for australopith C4 consumption. In addition, it has been difficult to determine which C4 resources were actually utilized, which is at least partially due to a lack of stable isotope data on some purported australopith foods. Here we begin to address these lacunae by presenting carbon isotope data for 14 new hominin specimens, as well as for two potential C4 foods (termites and sedges). The new data confirm that non-C3 foods were heavily utilized by australopiths, making up about 40% and 35% of Australopithecus and Paranthropus diets respectively. Most termites in the savanna-woodland biome of the Kruger National Park, South Africa, have intermediate carbon isotope compositions indicating mixed C3/C4 diets. Only 28% of the sedges in Kruger were C4, and few if any had well-developed rhizomes and tubers that make some sedges attractive foods. We conclude that although termites and sedges might have contributed to the C4 signal in South African australopiths, other C4 foods were also important. Lastly, we suggest that the consumption of C4 foods is a fundamental hominin trait that, along with bipedalism, allowed australopiths to pioneer increasingly open and seasonal environments.

Citations

84 citations in Web of Science®
93 citations in Scopus®
Google Scholar™

Altmetrics

Downloads

1 download since deposited on 15 Feb 2010
0 downloads since 12 months
Detailed statistics

Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:05 Vetsuisse Faculty > Veterinary Clinic > Department of Small Animals
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
630 Agriculture
Date:2005
Deposited On:15 Feb 2010 16:21
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 13:37
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0047-2484
Publisher DOI:10.1016/j.jhevol.2004.11.008
PubMed ID:15737395
Permanent URL: http://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-25347

Download

[img]Filetype: PDF - Registered users only
Size: 1MB
View at publisher

TrendTerms

TrendTerms displays relevant terms of the abstract of this publication and related documents on a map. The terms and their relations were extracted from ZORA using word statistics. Their timelines are taken from ZORA as well. The bubble size of a term is proportional to the number of documents where the term occurs. Red, orange, yellow and green colors are used for terms that occur in the current document; red indicates high interlinkedness of a term with other terms, orange, yellow and green decreasing interlinkedness. Blue is used for terms that have a relation with the terms in this document, but occur in other documents.
You can navigate and zoom the map. Mouse-hovering a term displays its timeline, clicking it yields the associated documents.

Author Collaborations