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Adams J.W.,Monash University | Olah A.,Monash University | McCurry M.R.,Monash University | Potze S.,Plio Pleistocene Palaeontology Section | Wilson B.A.,University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign
PLoS ONE | Year: 2015

Nearly a century of paleontological excavation and analysis from the cave deposits of the Cradle of Humankind UNESCO World Heritage Site in northeastern South Africa underlies much of our understanding of the evolutionary history of hominins, other primates and other mammal lineages in the late Pliocene and early Pleistocene of Africa. As one of few designated fossil repositories, the Plio-Pleistocene Palaeontology Section of the Ditsong National Museum of Natural History (DNMNH; the former Transvaal Museum) curates much of the mammalian faunas recovered from the fossil-rich deposits of major South African hominin-bearing localities, including the holotype and paratype specimens of many primate, carnivore, and other mammal species (Orders Primates, Carnivora, Artiodactyla, Eulipotyphla, Hyracoidea, Lagomorpha, Perissodactyla, and Proboscidea). Here we describe an open-access digital archive of high-resolution, full-color three-dimensional (3D) surface meshes of all 89 non-hominin holotype, paratype and significant mammalian specimens curated in the Plio-Pleistocene Section vault. Surface meshes were generated using a commercial surface scanner (Artec Spider, Artec Group, Luxembourg), are provided in formats that can be opened in both open-source and commercial software, and can be readily downloaded either via an online data repository (MorphoSource) or via direct request from the DNMNH. In addition to providing surface meshes for each specimen, we also provide tomographic data (both computerized tomography [CT] and microfocus [microCT]) for a subset of these fossil specimens. This archive of the DNMNH Plio-Pleistocene collections represents the first research-quality 3D datasets of African mammal fossils to be made openly available. This simultaneously provides the paleontological community with essential baseline information (e.g., updated listing and 3D record of specimens in their current state of preservation) and serves as a single resource of high-resolution digital data that improves collections accessibility, reduces unnecessary duplication of efforts by researchers, and encourages ongoing imaging-based paleobiological research across a range of South African non-hominin fossil faunas. Because the types, paratypes, and key specimens include globally-distributed mammal taxa, this digital archive not only provides 3D morphological data on taxa fundamental to Neogene and Quaternary South African palaeontology, but also lineages critical to research on African, other Old World, and New World paleocommunities. With such a broader impact of the DNMNH 3D data, we hope that establishing open access to this digital archive will encourage other researchers and institutions to provide similar resources that increase accessibility to paleontological collections and support advanced paleobiological analyses. © 2015 Adams et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Source


Grine F.E.,State University of New York at Stony Brook | Bromage T.G.,New York University | Daegling D.J.,University of Florida | Burr D.B.,Indiana University | And 2 more authors.
Journal of Human Evolution | Year: 2015

Microbiological degradation is one of the most important factors responsible for the destruction of bone in archaeological contexts. Microscopic focal destruction (MFD) is the most prevalent form of microbial tunneling and is encountered very commonly in human bones from archaeological sites, whereas animal bones from these same sites show significantly better preservation if they were deposited in a fragmentary (e.g., butchered) state. Similarly, most fossils show either no evidence or only minor traces of bacterial osteolysis. These observations and experimental evidence point to an endogenous origin for osteolytic bacteria, suggesting that bone bioerosion could potentially aid in reconstructing early taphonomic events. We here report extensive MFD in the mandibular corpus of a small (presumptive female) individual of the hominin Paranthropus robustus from the Early Pleistocene site of Swartkrans, South Africa. The specimen (SKX 5013) derives in situ from the Member 2 deposit, which is dated to ca. 1.5-1.0Ma. Examination of sections from the corpus by backscattered electron microscopy reveals numerous small linear longitudinal and budded tunneling cavities, which tend to be concentrated around Haversian canals and are more abundant closer to the endosteal aspect of the section. The taphonomy of Swartkrans has been the subject of intense investigation, and given the possibility that different agents of accumulation may have been responsible for the faunal and hominin fossils in the different members at the site, the observation that a specimen of P.robustus from Member 2 displays significant microbial osteolysis is of potential interest. A study of the prevalence of this process in adequately large samples of the animal bones from these units may yield novel insights and provide refinement of our understanding of their taphonomic histories. Such observations might well reveal differences among the various members that could provide another valuable source of osteoarchaeological information for the site. © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. Source


Herries A.I.R.,La Trobe University | Kappen P.,La Trobe University | Kappen P.,Australian Synchrotron | Kegley A.D.T.,Grand Valley State University | And 5 more authors.
South African Journal of Science | Year: 2014

Palaeomagnetic analysis indicates that Haasgat, a fossil-bearing palaeocave in the Gauteng Province of South Africa, is dominated by reversed magnetic polarity in its oldest, deepest layers and normal polarity in the younger layers. The presence of in-situ Equus specimens suggests an age of less than ~2.3 Ma, while morphological analysis of faunal specimens from the ex-situ assemblage suggests an age greater than 1.8 Ma. Given this faunal age constraint, the older reversed polarity sections most likely date to the beginning of the Matuyama Chron (2.58-1.95 Ma), while the younger normal polarity deposits likely date to the very beginning of the Olduvai Sub-Chron (1.95-1.78 Ma). The occurrence of a magnetic reversal from reversed to normal polarity recorded in the sequence indicates the deposits of the Bridge Section date to ~1.95 Ma. All the in-situ fossil deposits that have been noted are older than the 1.95 Ma reversal, but younger than 2.3 Ma. Haasgat therefore dates to an interesting time period in South African human evolution that saw the last occurrence of two australopith species at ~2.05-2.02 Ma (Sts5 Australopithecus africanus from Sterkfontein Member 4) to ~1.98 Ma (Australopithecus sediba from Malapa) and the first occurrence of early Homo (Sk847), Paranthropus and the Oldowan within Swartkrans Member 1 between ~2.0 Ma and ~1.8 Ma. © 2014. The Authors. The Authors. Source


Grine F.E.,State University of New York at Stony Brook | Bromage T.G.,New York University | Daegling D.J.,University of Florida | Burr D.B.,Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis | Brain C.K.,Plio Pleistocene Palaeontology Section
Journal of Human Evolution | Year: 2015

Microbiological degradation is one of the most important factors responsible for the destruction of bone in archaeological contexts. Microscopic focal destruction (MFD) is the most prevalent form of microbial tunneling and is encountered very commonly in human bones from archaeological sites, whereas animal bones from these same sites show significantly better preservation if they were deposited in a fragmentary (e.g., butchered) state. Similarly, most fossils show either no evidence or only minor traces of bacterial osteolysis. These observations and experimental evidence point to an endogenous origin for osteolytic bacteria, suggesting that bone bioerosion could potentially aid in reconstructing early taphonomic events. We here report extensive MFD in the mandibular corpus of a small (presumptive female) individual of the hominin Paranthropus robustus from the Early Pleistocene site of Swartkrans, South Africa. The specimen (SKX 5013) derives in situ from the Member 2 deposit, which is dated to ca. 1.5-1.0Ma. Examination of sections from the corpus by backscattered electron microscopy reveals numerous small linear longitudinal and budded tunneling cavities, which tend to be concentrated around Haversian canals and are more abundant closer to the endosteal aspect of the section. The taphonomy of Swartkrans has been the subject of intense investigation, and given the possibility that different agents of accumulation may have been responsible for the faunal and hominin fossils in the different members at the site, the observation that a specimen of P.robustus from Member 2 displays significant microbial osteolysis is of potential interest. A study of the prevalence of this process in adequately large samples of the animal bones from these units may yield novel insights and provide refinement of our understanding of their taphonomic histories. Such observations might well reveal differences among the various members that could provide another valuable source of osteoarchaeological information for the site. © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. Source


Pickering T.R.,University of Wisconsin - Madison | Pickering T.R.,University of Witwatersrand | Dominguez-Rodrigo M.,IDEA Institute Evolucion en africa | Dominguez-Rodrigo M.,Complutense University of Madrid | And 10 more authors.
Journal of Archaeological Science | Year: 2013

The phenomenon of equifinality complicates behavioral interpretations of faunal assemblages from contexts in which Pleistocene hominins are suspected bone accumulators. Stone tool butchery marks on ungulate fossils are diagnostic of hominin activities, but debate continues over the higher-order implications of butchered bones for the foraging capabilities of hominins. Additionally, tooth marks imparted on bones by hominins overlap in morphology and dimensions with those created by some non-hominin carnivores, further confounding our view of early hominins as meat-eating hunters, scavengers or both. We report on the manual/oral peeling of cortical layers of ungulate ribs as taphonomically diagnostic of hominoid/hominin meat- and bone-eating behavior that indicates access to large herbivore carcasses by hominins at the site of BK, Olduvai. Supporting these inferences, we show that certain types of rib peeling damage are very rare or completely unknown in faunas created by modern carnivores and African porcupines, but common in faunas modified by the butchery and/or consumption activities of modern humans and chimpanzees, during which these hominoids often grasp ribs with their hands, and then used their teeth to peel strips of cortex from raggedly chewed ends of the ribs. Carnivores consume ungulate ribcage tissues soon after kills, so diagnostic traces of hominin butchery/consumption on ribs (i.e., peeling and butchery marks) indicate early access to ungulate carcasses by BK hominins. Tooth marks associated with the peeling and butchery marks are probably hominin-derived, andmay indicate that itwas not uncommon for our ancestors to use their teeth to strip meat from and to consume portions of ribs. Recognition of rib peeling as a diagnostic signature of hominoid/hominin behavior may also aid the search for pre-archaeological traces of hominin meat-eating. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. Source

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