ResearchPad - geologic-time https://www.researchpad.co Default RSS Feed en-us © 2020 Newgen KnowledgeWorks <![CDATA[Unravelling the mystery of “Madagascar copal”: Age, origin and preservation of a Recent resin]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/elastic_article_15728 The loss of biodiversity during the Anthropocene is a constant topic of discussion, especially in the top biodiversity hotspots, such as Madagascar. In this regard, the study of preserved organisms through time, like those included in "Madagascar copal", is of relevance. “Madagascar copal" originated from the leguminous tree Hymenaea verrucosa, which produced and produces resin abundantly. In the last 20 years, interest has focused on the scientific study of its biological inclusions, mainly arthropods, described in dozens of publications. The age and origin of the deposits of "Madagascar copal" have not yet been resolved. Our objectives are to determine its age and geographical origin, and thus increase its scientific value as a source of biological/palaeobiological information. Although Hymenaea was established in Madagascar during the Miocene, we did not find geological deposits of copal or amber in the island. It is plausible that the evolution of those deposits was negatively conditioned by the type of soil, by the climate, and by the development of soil/litter microorganisms, which inhibit preservation of the resin pieces in the litter and subsoil over 300 years. Our results indicate that "Madagascar copal" is a Recent resin, up to a few hundred years old, that originated from Hymenaea trees growing in the lowland coastal forests, one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world. The included and preserved biota is representative of that ecosystem today and during historical times. Inclusions in this Recent resin do not have the palaeontological significance that has been mistakenly attributed to them, but they do have relevant implications for studies regarding Anthropocene biodiversity loss in this hottest hotspot.

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<![CDATA[Geological significance of new zircon U–Pb geochronology and geochemistry: Niuxinshan intrusive complex, northern North China Craton]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c897791d5eed0c4847d303a

The Huajian gold deposit is one of the largest hydrothermal intrusion-related gold deposits in eastern Hebei Province, located in the northern margin of the North China Craton (NCC). The mineralization in this district displays a close spatial association with the shoshonitic Niuxinshan intrusive complex (NIC), which contributes to the characterization of the metallogeny associated with convergent margin magmatism. In the current study, new geochronological and geochemical data are combined with previously published isotopic data, obtained from the granitic rocks in the NIC, to constrain the timing of the district’s tectonic setting transformation and determine its bearing on regional metallogeny. The new geochronological data constrain the timing of the tectonic transformation between 155 and 185 Ma. The NIC’s granitic rocks can be geochemically subdivided into two groups. One group’s geochemical signature exhibits steep rare earth element (REE) patterns with negligible Eu anomalies, lower Yb, higher Sr, and negative Nb–Ta–Ti (NTT) anomalies, which indicate a volcanic-arc environment with a thickened crust in a convergent setting. The other group exhibits flat REE patterns with obvious negative Eu anomalies, higher Yb, lower Sr, and weak NTT anomalies, which indicate an intra-plate extensional environment with a thinning crust. Combining geochronologic and isotopic data, the mineralization is Late Jurassic (~155 Ma). This is interpreted to be genetically related to the crystallization of the shallow crustal-sourced portions of this complex. Additionally, a tectonic model is presented that provides a plausible explanation for the abundant polymetallic mineralization that occurs in the northern margin of the NCC after 155 Ma.

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<![CDATA[Population dynamics and socio-spatial organization of the Aurignacian: Scalable quantitative demographic data for western and central Europe]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c6dc991d5eed0c484529e40

Demographic estimates are presented for the Aurignacian techno-complex (~42,000 to 33,000 y calBP) and discussed in the context of socio-spatial organization of hunter-gatherer populations. Results of the analytical approach applied estimate a mean of 1,500 persons (upper limit: 3,300; lower limit: 800) for western and central Europe. The temporal and spatial analysis indicates an increase of the population during the Aurignacian as well as marked regional differences in population size and density. Demographic increase and patterns of socio-spatial organization continue during the subsequent early Gravettian period. We introduce the concept of Core Areas and Extended Areas as informed analytical spatial scales, which are evaluated against additional chronological and archaeological data. Lithic raw material transport and personal ornaments serve as correlates for human mobility and connectedness in the interpretative framework of this study. Observed regional differences are set in relation with the new demographic data. Our large-scale approach on Aurignacian population dynamics in Europe suggests that past socio-spatial organization followed socially inherent rules to establish and maintain a functioning social network of extremely low population densities. The data suggest that the network was fully established across Europe during the early phase of the Gravettian, when demographic as well as cultural developments peaked.

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<![CDATA[A new African Titanosaurian Sauropod Dinosaur from the middle Cretaceous Galula Formation (Mtuka Member), Rukwa Rift Basin, Southwestern Tanzania]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c6dca2ad5eed0c48452a874

The African terrestrial fossil record has been limited in its contribution to our understanding of both regional and global Cretaceous paleobiogeography, an interval of significant geologic and macroevolutionary change. A common component in Cretaceous African faunas, titanosaurian sauropods diversified into one of the most specious groups of dinosaurs worldwide. Here we describe the new titanosaurian Mnyamawamtuka moyowamkia gen. et sp. nov. from the Mtuka Member of the Galula Formation in southwest Tanzania. The new specimen preserves teeth, elements from all regions of the postcranial axial skeleton, parts of both appendicular girdles, and portions of both limbs including a complete metatarsus. Unique traits of M. moyowamkia include the lack of an interpostzygapophyseal lamina in posterior dorsal vertebrae, pronounced posterolateral expansion of middle caudal centra, and an unusually small sternal plate. Phylogenetic analyses consistently place M. moyowamkia as either a close relative to lithostrotian titanosaurians (e.g., parsimony, uncalibrated Bayesian analyses) or as a lithostrotian and sister taxon to Malawisaurus dixeyi from the nearby Aptian? Dinosaur Beds of Malawi (e.g., tip-dating Bayesian analyses). M. moyowamkia shares a few features with M. dixeyi, including semi-spatulate teeth and a median lamina between the neural canal and interpostzygapophyseal lamina in anterior dorsal vertebrae. Both comparative morphology and phylogenetic analyses support Mnyamawamtuka as a distinct and distant relative to Rukwatitan bisepultus and Shingopana songwensis from the younger Namba Member of the Galula Formation with these results largely congruent with newly constrained ages for the Mtuka Member (Aptian–Cenomanian) and Namba Member (Campanian). Coupled with recent discoveries from the Dahkla Oasis, Egypt (e.g., Mansourasaurus shahinae) and other parts of continental Afro-Arabia, the Tanzania titanosaurians refine perspectives on the development of African terrestrial faunas throughout the Cretaceous—a critical step in understanding non-marine paleobiogeographic patterns of Africa that have remained elusive until the past few years.

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<![CDATA[Comparisons of Schansitherium tafeli with Samotherium boissieri (Giraffidae, Mammalia) from the Late Miocene of Gansu Province, China]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c6c7573d5eed0c4843cfdbf

We are describing and figuring for the first time skulls of Schansitherium tafeli, which are abundant in the Gansu area of China from the Late Miocene. They were animals about the size of Samotherium with shorter necks that had two pairs of ossicones that merge at the base, which is unlike Samotherium. The anterior ossicones consist of anterior lineations, which may represent growth lines. They were likely mixed feeders similar to Samotherium. Schansitherium is tentatively placed in a very close position to Samotherium. Samotherium and Schansitherium represent a pair of morphologically very similar species that likely coexisted similarly to pairs of modern species, where the main difference is in the ossicones. Pairs of ruminants in Africa, for example, exist today that differ mostly in their horn shape but otherwise are similar in size, shape, and diet. The absence of Schansitherium from Europe is interesting, however, as Samotherium is found in both locations. While is it challenging to interpret neck length and ossicone shape in terms of function in combat, we offer our hypothesis as to how the two species differed in their fighting techniques.

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<![CDATA[Tree rings as a proxy for seasonal precipitation variability and Early Neolithic settlement dynamics in Bavaria, Germany]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c5b52ecd5eed0c4842bd293

Studying the dynamic of Neolithic settlement on a local scale and its connection to climate variability is often difficult due to missing on-site climate reconstructions from natural archives. Here we bring together archaeological settlement data and a regional climate reconstruction from precipitation-sensitive trees. Both archives hold information about regional settlement dynamics and hydroclimate variability spanning the time of the first farming communities, the so called Linearbandkeramik (LBK) in Bavaria, Germany. Precipitation-sensitive tree-ring series from subfossil oak are used to develop a spring-summer precipitation reconstruction (5700–4800 B.C.E.) representative for southern Germany. Early Neolithic settlement data from Bavaria, mainly for the duration of the LBK settlement activities, are critically evaluated and compared to this unique regional hydroclimate reconstruction as well as to reconstructions of Greenland temperature, summer sea surface temperature, delta 18O and global solar irradiance to investigate the potential impact of climate on Neolithic settlers and their settlement dynamic during the LBK. Our hydroclimate reconstruction demonstrates an extraordinarily high frequency of severe dry and wet spring-summer seasons during the entire LBK, with particularly high year-to-year variability from 5400 to 5101 B.C.E. and with lower fluctuations until 4801 B.C.E. A significant influence of regional climate on the dynamic of the LBK is possible (e.g. around 4960 B.C.E.), but should be interpreted very carefully due to asynchronous trends in settlement dynamics. Thus, we conclude that even when a climate proxy such as tree rings that has excellent spatio-temporal resolution is available, it remains difficult to establish potential connections between the settlement dynamic of the LBK and climate variability.

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<![CDATA[Impacts of rock properties on Danxia landform formation based on lithological experiments at Kongtongshan National Geopark, northwest China]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c521887d5eed0c484798c91

As an erosional landform, the formation processes of Danxia landform are controlled by internal and external forces as well as lithologic properties. Using field data, we studied the role of lithologic properties on the formation of Danxia landform in Kongtongshan National Geopark, northwest China, through a series of experiments, including uniaxial compressive strength, identification analysis under polarizing microscope, X-ray diffraction analysis, inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry analysis, and scanning electron microscopy. The results show that the diagenesis degree, mineral composition, cement composition, degree of cementation, geochemical composition and element contents, and micro-structure influenced the structure and anti-weathering and anti-erosion abilities of the Danxia rock mass. Differential weathering of rock in different environments was an important force shaping the different types of Danxia landform. Weathering failure of the Danxia rock mass was the result of multiple combined factors; as well as lithology, other factors, such as those induced during tectonic uplift (i.e., faulting, jointing, and fracturing) and climate, cannot be neglected. Therefore, lithology played an important role in the structural development of Danxia landform, and different lithologies influenced its weathering rate and formation processes. Our findings can provide a reference for revealing the microscopic development of Danxia landform in arid and semi-arid areas.

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<![CDATA[Stomach contents of the archaeocete Basilosaurus isis: Apex predator in oceans of the late Eocene]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c3fa556d5eed0c484ca331a

Apex predators live at the top of an ecological pyramid, preying on animals in the pyramid below and normally immune from predation themselves. Apex predators are often, but not always, the largest animals of their kind. The living killer whale Orcinus orca is an apex predator in modern world oceans. Here we focus on an earlier apex predator, the late Eocene archaeocete Basilosaurus isis from Wadi Al Hitan in Egypt, and show from stomach contents that it fed on smaller whales (juvenile Dorudon atrox) and large fishes (Pycnodus mokattamensis). Our observations, the first direct evidence of diet in Basilosaurus isis, confirm a predator-prey relationship of the two most frequently found fossil whales in Wadi Al-Hitan, B. isis and D. atrox. This extends our understanding of their paleoecology. Late Eocene Basilosaurus isis, late Miocene Livyatan melvillei, and modern Orcinus orca are three marine apex predators known from relatively short intervals of time. Little is known about whales as apex predators through much of the Cenozoic era, and whales as apex predators deserve more attention than they have received.

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<![CDATA[The role of Pleistocene climate change in the genetic variability, distribution and demography of Proechimys cuvieri and P. guyannensis (Rodentia: Echimyidae) in northeastern Amazonia]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c215141d5eed0c4843f95f9

The spiny rats, genus Proechimys, have the highest species richness within the Echimyidae family, as well as species with high genetic variability. The genus distribution includes tropical South America and Central America south to Honduras. In this study, we evaluate the phylogeographic histories of Proechimys guyannensis and P. cuvieri using cytochrome b, in a densely sampled area in northeastern Amazon where both species are found in sympatry in different environments. For each species, Bayesian and Maximum Likelihood phylogenetic analysis were congruent and recovered similar clades in the studied area. Bayesian phylogenetic analysis using a relaxed molecular clock showed that these clusters of haplotypes diversified during Pleistocene for both species. Apparently, the large rivers of the region did not act as barriers, as some clades include specimens collected from opposite banks of Oiapoque, Araguari and Jari rivers. Bayesian skyline plot analysis showed recent demographic expansion in both species. The Pleistocene climatic changes in concert with the geologic changes in the Amazon fan probably acted as drivers in the diversification that we detected in these two spiny rats. Proechimys cuvieri and P. guyannensis show genetic structure in the eastern part of the Guiana region. Greater genetic distances observed in P. guyannensis, associated with highly structured groups, suggest that more detailed studies of systematics and ecology should be directed to this species.

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<![CDATA[Revision of Varanus marathonensis (Squamata, Varanidae) based on historical and new material: morphology, systematics, and paleobiogeography of the European monitor lizards]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c117b75d5eed0c4846994b2

Monitor lizards (genus Varanus) inhabited Europe at least from the early Miocene to the Pleistocene. Their fossil record is limited to about 40 localities that have provided mostly isolated vertebrae. Due to the poor diagnostic value of these fossils, it was recently claimed that all the European species described prior to the 21st century are not taxonomically valid and a new species, Varanus amnhophilis, was erected on the basis of fragmentary material including cranial elements, from the late Miocene of Samos (Greece). We re-examined the type material of Varanus marathonensis Weithofer, 1888, based on material from the late Miocene of Pikermi (Greece), and concluded that it is a valid, diagnosable species. Previously unpublished Iberian material from the Aragonian (middle Miocene) of Abocador de Can Mata (Vallès-Penedès Basin, Barcelona) and the Vallesian (late Miocene) of Batallones (Madrid Basin) is clearly referable to the same species on a morphological basis, further enabling to provide an emended diagnosis for this species. Varanus amnhophilis appears to be a junior subjective synonym of V. marathonensis. On the basis of the most complete fossil Varanus skeleton ever described, it has been possible to further resolve the internal phylogeny of this genus by cladistically analyzing 80 taxa coded for 495 morphological and 5729 molecular characters. Varanus marathonensis was a large-sized species distributed at relatively low latitudes in both southwestern and southeastern Europe from at least MN7+8 to MN12. Our cladistic analysis nests V. marathonensis into an eastern clade of Varanus instead of the African clade comprising Varanus griseus, to which it had been related in the past. At least two different Varanus lineages were present in Europe during the Neogene, represented by Varanus mokrensis (early Miocene) and V. marathonensis (middle to late Miocene), respectively.

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<![CDATA[Multiple indicators of rice remains and the process of rice domestication: A case study in the lower Yangtze River region, China]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c0ed75cd5eed0c484f13fc5

The process of rice domestication has been studied for decades based on changing morphological characteristics in assemblages of both macroremains, such as charred seeds and spikelet bases, and microremains, such as phytoliths, esp. bulliform and double-peaked phytoliths. The applicability of these indicators in determining if a specific assemblage is wild or domesticated, however, is rarely discussed. To understand the significance of these indicators in the determination of domestication, we collected 38 archaeological samples from eight Neolithic sites, dating from 10-2ka BP, in the lower Yangtze River region to analyze and compare the changes of these different indicators over eight thousand years. The data demonstrate that the comprehensive analysis of multiple indicators may be the best method to study the process of rice domestication developed thus far. An assemblage of rice remains can be identified as domesticated forms if they meet the following criteria simultaneously: 1) the proportion of domesticated-type bulliform phytoliths is more than 73%; and 2) the proportion of domesticated-type rice spikelet bases is higher than 75%. Furthermore, we found that each indicator tends to change steadily and gradually over time, and each stabilized at a different time, suggesting that the characteristics of domesticated rice developed slowly and successively. Changes of multiple indicators during the period between 10,000–2,000 yr BP indicate that the process of rice domestication in the lower Yangtze River region lasted as long as ca. 6,000 years during the Neolithic, and can be divided into three stages with the turning points in the middle Hemudu-late Majiabang culture (6,500–5,800yr BP) and the late Liangzhu culture (4,600–4,300yr BP).

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<![CDATA[Fine Endmesolithic fish caviar meal discovered by proteomics in foodcrusts from archaeological site Friesack 4 (Brandenburg, Germany)]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c0841b4d5eed0c484fca81b

The role of aquatic resources in ancient economies and paleodiet is important for understanding the evolution of prehistorical societies. Charred food remains from ancient pottery are valuable molecular evidence of dietary habits in antiquity. However, conventional archaeometric approaches applied in their analysis lack organismal specificity, are affected by abundant environmental contaminants, do not elucidate food processing recipes and are limited in the inland regions where diverse dietary resources are available. We performed proteomics analysis of charred organic deposits adhered on early ceramics from Mesolithic-Neolithic inland site Friesack 4 (Brandenburg, Germany). One of pots—a small coarse bowl radiocarbon dated to the end of the 5th millennium BC—was attributed to Endmesolithic pottery. Proteomics of foodcrust from this vessel identified fine carp roe meal and revealed details of a prehistorical culinary recipe. Ancient proteins were unequivocally distinguished from contemporary contaminants by computing deamidation ratios of glutamine residues. These data paint a broader picture of the site-specific exploitation of aquatic resources and contribute to better understanding of the dietary context of Neolithic transition in European inland.

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<![CDATA[If Dung Beetles (Scarabaeidae: Scarabaeinae) Arose in Association with Dinosaurs, Did They Also Suffer a Mass Co-Extinction at the K-Pg Boundary?]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989d9f0ab0ee8fa60b6e0f4

The evolutionary success of beetles and numerous other terrestrial insects is generally attributed to co-radiation with flowering plants but most studies have focused on herbivorous or pollinating insects. Non-herbivores represent a significant proportion of beetle diversity yet potential factors that influence their diversification have been largely unexamined. In the present study, we examine the factors driving diversification within the Scarabaeidae, a speciose beetle family with a range of both herbivorous and non-herbivorous ecologies. In particular, it has been long debated whether the key event in the evolution of dung beetles (Scarabaeidae: Scarabaeinae) was an adaptation to feeding on dinosaur or mammalian dung. Here we present molecular evidence to show that the origin of dung beetles occurred in the middle of the Cretaceous, likely in association with dinosaur dung, but more surprisingly the timing is consistent with the rise of the angiosperms. We hypothesize that the switch in dinosaur diet to incorporate more nutritious and less fibrous angiosperm foliage provided a palatable dung source that ultimately created a new niche for diversification. Given the well-accepted mass extinction of non-avian dinosaurs at the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary, we examine a potential co-extinction of dung beetles due to the loss of an important evolutionary resource, i.e., dinosaur dung. The biogeography of dung beetles is also examined to explore the previously proposed “out of Africa” hypothesis. Given the inferred age of Scarabaeinae as originating in the Lower Cretaceous, the major radiation of dung feeders prior to the Cenomanian, and the early divergence of both African and Gondwanan lineages, we hypothesise that that faunal exchange between Africa and Gondwanaland occurred during the earliest evolution of the Scarabaeinae. Therefore we propose that both Gondwanan vicariance and dispersal of African lineages is responsible for present day distribution of scarabaeine dung beetles and provide examples.

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<![CDATA[An archosauromorph dominated ichnoassemblage in fluvial settings from the late Early Triassic of the Catalan Pyrenees (NE Iberian Peninsula)]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989db52ab0ee8fa60bdc90d

The vertebrate recovery after the end-Permian mass extinction can be approached through the ichnological record, which is much more abundant than body fossils. The late Olenekian (Early Triassic) tetrapod ichnoassemblage of the Catalan Pyrenean Basin is the most complete and diverse of this age from Western Tethys. This extensional basin, composed of several depocenters, was formed in the latest phases of the Variscan orogeny (Pangea breakup) and was infilled by braided and meandering fluvial systems of the red-beds Buntsandstein facies. Abundant and diverse tetrapod ichnites are recorded in these facies, including Prorotodactylus mesaxonichnus isp. nov. (tracks possibly produced by euparkeriids), cf. Rotodactylus, at least two large chirotheriid morphotypes (archosauriform trackmakers), Rhynchosauroides cf. schochardti, two other undetermined Rhynchosauroides forms, an undetermined Morphotype A (archosauromorph trackmakers) and two types of Characichnos isp. (swimming traces, here associated to archosauromorph trackmakers). The Pyrenean ichnoassemblage suggests a relatively homogeneous ichnofaunal composition through the late Early Triassic of Central Pangea, characterized by the presence of Prorotodactylus and Rotodactylus. Small archosauromorph tracks dominate and present a wide distribution through the different fluviatile facies of the Triassic Pyrenean Basin, with large archosaurian footprints being present in a lesser degree. Archosauromorphs radiated and diversified through the Triassic vertebrate recovery, which ultimately lead to the archosaur and dinosaur dominance of the Mesozoic.

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<![CDATA[Multilocus Phylogeography of the Treefrog Scinax eurydice (Anura, Hylidae) Reveals a Plio-Pleistocene Diversification in the Atlantic Forest]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989dafdab0ee8fa60bc5497

We aim to evaluate the genetic structure of an Atlantic Forest amphibian species, Scinax eurydice, testing the congruence among patterns identified and proposed by the literature for Pleistocene refugia, microrefugia, and geographic barriers to gene flow such as major rivers. Furthermore, we aim to evaluate predictions of such barriers and refugia on the genetic structure of the species, such as presence/absence of dispersal, timing since separation, and population expansions/contractions. We sequenced mitochondrial and nuclear genetic markers on 94 tissue samples from 41 localities. We inferred a gene tree and estimated genetic distances using mtDNA sequences. We then ran population clustering and assignment methods, AMOVA, and estimated migration rates among populations identified through mtDNA and nDNA analyses. We used a dated species tree, skyline plots, and summary statistics to evaluate concordance between population’s distributions and geographic barriers and Pleistocene refugia. Scinax eurydice showed high mtDNA divergences and four clearly distinct mtDNA lineages. Species tree and population assignment tests supported the existence of two major clades corresponding to northeastern and southeastern Atlantic Forest in Brazil, each one composed of two other clades. Lineage splitting events occurred from late Pliocene to Pleistocene. We identified demographic expansions in two clades, and inexistent to low levels of migrations among different populations. Genetic patterns and demographic data support the existence of two northern Refuge and corroborate microrefugia south of the Doce/Jequitinhonha Rivers biogeographic divide. The results agree with a scenario of recent demographic expansion of lowland taxa. Scinax eurydice comprises a species complex, harboring undescribed taxa consistent with Pleistocene refugia. Two rivers lie at the boundaries among populations and endorse their role as secondary barriers to gene flow.

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<![CDATA[Across the Gap: Geochronological and Sedimentological Analyses from the Late Pleistocene-Holocene Sequence of Goda Buticha, Southeastern Ethiopia]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989db4fab0ee8fa60bdbb24

Goda Buticha is a cave site near Dire Dawa in southeastern Ethiopia that contains an archaeological sequence sampling the late Pleistocene and Holocene of the region. The sedimentary sequence displays complex cultural, chronological and sedimentological histories that seem incongruent with one another. A first set of radiocarbon ages suggested a long sedimentological gap from the end of Marine Isotopic Stage (MIS) 3 to the mid-Holocene. Macroscopic observations suggest that the main sedimentological change does not coincide with the chronostratigraphic hiatus. The cultural sequence shows technological continuity with a late persistence of artifacts that are usually attributed to the Middle Stone Age into the younger parts of the stratigraphic sequence, yet become increasingly associated with lithic artifacts typically related to the Later Stone Age. While not a unique case, this combination of features is unusual in the Horn of Africa. In order to evaluate the possible implications of these observations, sedimentological analyses combined with optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) were conducted. The OSL data now extend the radiocarbon chronology up to 63 ± 7 ka; they also confirm the existence of the chronological gap between 24.8 ± 2.6 ka and 7.5 ± 0.3 ka. The sedimentological analyses suggest that the origin and mode of deposition were largely similar throughout the whole sequence, although the anthropic and faunal activities increased in the younger levels. Regional climatic records are used to support the sedimentological observations and interpretations. We discuss the implications of the sedimentological and dating analyses for understanding cultural processes in the region.

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<![CDATA[PLoS Biology Issue Image | Vol. 16(3) March 2018]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5ae424c4463d7e02f65f0b93

Late Maastrichtian pterosaurs from North Africa and mass extinction of Pterosauria at the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary

Pterosaurs were winged cousins of the dinosaurs and lived from around 200 million years ago to 66 million years ago, when the last pterosaurs disappeared during the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs. The pterosaurs are thought to have declined in diversity before their final extinction, suggesting that gradual processes played a major role in their demise. However, this study by Longrich et al. describes hundreds of new pterosaur fossils from the end of the Cretaceous in Morocco, including as many as seven species. These represent three different families and show substantial variation in size and skeletal proportions, suggesting that they occupied a wide range of ecological niches. The image shows an artist's impression of diverse pterosaurs flying over the Moroccan coast 66 million years ago.

Image Credit: John Conway

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<![CDATA[New Cricetid Rodents from Strata near the Eocene-Oligocene Boundary in Erden Obo Section (Nei Mongol, China)]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989da58ab0ee8fa60b8f67f

New cricetids (Eucricetodon wangae sp. nov., Eucricetodon sp. and Pappocricetodon siziwangqiensis sp. nov.) are reported from the lower and middle parts of the “Upper Red” beds of the Erden Obo section in Nei Mongol, China. Eucricetodon wangae is more primitive than other known species of the genus from lower Oligocene of Asia and Europe in having a single anterocone on M1, a single connection between the protocone and the paracone, the anterior metalophule connection in M1-2 and weaker anteroconid and ectomesolophid in lower molars. Pappocricetodon siziwangqiensis is more advanced than other species of the genus in permanently missing P4 and having posterior protolophule connection. These fossils suggest that the age of the “Upper Red” of the Erden Obo section is younger than the age of the Upper Eocene Houldjin and Caijiachong formations, but older than those containing the Shandgolian faunas; the “Upper Red” is most closely correlative to the Ergilian beds in age, and probably close to the Eocene/Oligocene boundary. Given the age estimate, Eucricetodon wangae provides the new evidence to support that cricetid dispersal from Asia to Europe occurred prior to the Eocene-Oligocene boundary.

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<![CDATA[A U-Pb zircon age constraint on the oldest-recorded air-breathing land animal]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989db5fab0ee8fa60be1287

The oldest-known air-breathing land animal is the millipede Pneumodesmus newmani, found in the Cowie Harbour Fish Bed at Stonehaven, Scotland. Here we report the youngest, most concordant 238U-206Pb zircon age from ash below the fish bed of 413.7±4.4 Ma (±2σ), whereas the youngest age from a tuffaceous sandstone above the fish bed is statistically indistinguishable at 414.3±7.1 Ma. The Cowie Harbour Fish Bed thus appears to be lowermost Devonian (Lochkovian), contrary to the previously accepted mid-Silurian age based on palynomorphs from adjacent exposures. This has implications for the evolutionary timetable of land colonization, as the Cowie ages overlap late Lochkovian zircon ages reported elsewhere for andesite below the nearby (~50 mi) Rhynie Chert, which has more advanced terrestrial biota. The results postdate the possible late Silurian Ludford Lane locality in Shropshire, England. Pneumodesmus newmani is thus not the earliest air-breathing land animal, unless the Ludford Lane locality is younger than presently assigned.

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<![CDATA[Pleistocene Hominins as a Resource for Carnivores: A c. 500,000-Year-Old Human Femur Bearing Tooth-Marks in North Africa (Thomas Quarry I, Morocco)]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989da6bab0ee8fa60b92d56

In many Middle Pleistocene sites, the co-occurrence of hominins with carnivores, who both contributed to faunal accumulations, suggests competition for resources as well as for living spaces. Despite this, there is very little evidence of direct interaction between them to-date. Recently, a human femoral diaphysis has been recognized in South-West of Casablanca (Morocco), in the locality called Thomas Quarry I. This site is famous for its Middle Pleistocene fossil hominins considered representatives of Homo rhodesiensis. The bone was discovered in Unit 4 of the Grotte à Hominidés (GH), dated to c. 500 ky and was associated with Acheulean artefacts and a rich mammalian fauna. Anatomically, it fits well within the group of known early Middle Pleistocene Homo, but its chief point of interest is that the diaphyseal ends display numerous tooth marks showing that it had been consumed shortly after death by a large carnivore, probably a hyena. This bone represents the first evidence of consumption of human remains by carnivores in the cave. Whether predated or scavenged, this chewed femur indicates that humans were a resource for carnivores, underlining their close relationships during the Middle Pleistocene in Atlantic Morocco.

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