More than monkeys in the forest and gazelles in the grassland: how do African mammals reflect Quaternary climates and environmental dynamics?
Paleoecologists working on late Cenozoic African mammals have long focused on understanding how fossil assemblages reflect the habitats of human evolution. A large and important body of literature illustrates how multiple aspects of fossil mammal communities (e.g., taxonomic abundances, functional traits) can be linked to modern analogues, providing a framework for reconstructing habitat change through time and space. While such work remains an essential staple of paleoecological analysis, two avenues of research remain comparatively underdeveloped: how can we use African mammal assemblages to understand (1) climate dynamics and (2) biogeographic processes? Shifting our attention to these questions may provide new and complementary insights into the mechanisms underlying human evolution. Focusing on modern mammal communities and Quaternary fossil assemblages in southern and eastern Africa, this presentation highlights ongoing research aimed at developing faunal-based tools for reconstructing African climate dynamics and revealing how the opening and closing of biogeographic barriers may have facilitated large mammal (including human) dispersals and contributed to population fragmentation, an important precursor to extinction and speciation.
About the Presenter
Tyler Faith received a BA in Anthropology from the University of Washington (2005) and PhD in Hominid Paleobiology (2011) from The George Washington University. He is currently an ARC DECRA fellow and Lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Queensland. The focus of his research concerns the relationship between African faunal communities and Quaternary climate change, with an emphasis on implications for human evolution.