Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Savannah Ecologies Of Africa, India and Eurasia Were Once Connected

The scene was set for hominin evolution on the savannah in Africa in the late Miocene era, a geological epoch that spans from 23,030,000 to 5,333,000 years ago. 
Despite much interest in the ecology and origins of the extensive grassland ecosystems of the modern world, the biogeographic relationships of savannah palaeobiomes of Africa, India and mainland Eurasia have remained unclear. Here we assemble the most recent data from the Neogene mammal fossil record in order to map the biogeographic development of Old World mammalian faunas in relation to palaeoenvironmental conditions. Using genus-level faunal similarity and mean ordinated hypsodonty in combination with palaeoclimate modelling, we show that savannah faunas developed as a spatially and temporally connected entity that we term the Old World savannah palaeobiome. The Old World savannah palaeobiome flourished under the influence of middle and late Miocene global cooling and aridification, which resulted in the spread of open habitats across vast continental areas. This extensive biome fragmented into Eurasian and African branches due to increased aridification in North Africa and Arabia during the late Miocene. Its Eurasian branches had mostly disappeared by the end of the Miocene, but the African branch survived and eventually contributed to the development of Plio–Pleistocene African savannah faunas, including their early hominins. The modern African savannah fauna is thus a continuation of the extensive Old World savannah palaeobiome.
Ferhat Kaya, et al., "The rise and fall of the Old World savannah fauna and the origins of the African savannah biome" Nature Ecology and Evolution (January 1, 2018).

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