Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoecology


Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoecology

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Vasilyan D.,University of Tübingen | Bohme M.,University of Tübingen | Bohme M.,Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoecology
PLoS ONE | Year: 2012

Background: The oldest and largest member of giant salamanders (Cryptobranchidae) Aviturus exsecratus appears in the latest Paleocene (near the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum) of Mongolia. Based on femoral and vertebral morphology and metrics, a terrestrial adaptation has been supposed for this species. Methodology/Principal Findings: A detailed morphological reinvestigation of published as well as unpublished material reveals that this salamander shows a vomerine dentition that is posteriorly shifted and arranged in a zigzag pattern, a strongly developed olfactory region within the cranial cavity, and the highest bone ossification and relatively longest femur among all fossil and recent cryptobranchids. Conclusions/Significance: The presence of these characteristics indicates a peramorphic developmental pattern for Aviturus exsecratus. Our results from Av. exsecratus indicate for the first time pronounced peramorphosis within a crown-group lissamphibian. Av. exsecratus represents a new developmental trajectory within both fossil and recent lissamphibian clades characterized by extended ontogeny and large body size, resembling the pattern known from late Paleozoic eryopines. Moreover, Av. exsecratus is not only a cryptobranchid with distinctive peramorphic characters, but also the first giant salamander with partially terrestrial (amphibious) lifestyle. The morphology of the vomers and dentaries suggests the ability of both underwater and terrestrial feeding. © 2012 Vasilyan, Böhme.

Rivals F.,Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies | Rivals F.,Institute Catala Of Paleoecologia Humana I Evolucio Social Iphes | Rivals F.,Rovira i Virgili University | Julien M.-A.,University of Tübingen | And 10 more authors.
Journal of Human Evolution | Year: 2015

The paleodietary traits of the equid population from Schöningen 13 II-4 were investigated through tooth mesowear and microwear analyses, as well as stable isotopic analyses. The mesowear pattern observed on the upper teeth indicates a low abrasion diet with a significant amount of browse in the diet of the horses. The tooth microwear analysis and the isotopic data confirm that the horses from Schöningen 13 II-4 were mixed feeders, like many populations from other Pleistocene localities in Northern and Eastern Europe. Microwear also provides information on seasonal changes in the diet of the horses and offers the possibility to test hypotheses about the presence of one or several horse populations. Our analysis determined that the assemblage of horse remains from Schöningen 13 II-4 resulted from multiple accumulation events, which took place at different periods of time. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.

Julien M.-A.,French Natural History Museum | Julien M.-A.,University of Tübingen | Hardy B.,Kenyon College | Stahlschmidt M.C.,University of Tübingen | And 4 more authors.
Journal of Human Evolution | Year: 2015

Although preservation of Paleolithic faunal assemblages from open-air settings is often poor, the Lower Paleolithic sites of Schöningen provide exceptionally well-preserved mammalian faunal material for investigating hominin/animal relationships. Pleistocene fossil assemblages, however, usually reflect a complex taphonomic history in which natural and anthropogenic processes are often superimposed. A number of examples of osseous finds that resemble tools were recently discovered in the MIS 9 deposits of Schöningen 12 II. Non-anthropogenic agents are known to produce surface modifications mimicking human artifacts and the identification of osseous remains used and/or deliberately modified by ancient hominins is often controversial in such old contexts. Multiple lines of evidence are thus useful for distinguishing between osseous artifacts and "eco-facts.". In this paper, the recognition of the use of bone for technological purposes by late Middle Pleistocene hominins is addressed through a multi-proxy study combining geoarcheology, bone taphonomy, zooarcheology, and use-wear analysis. This allowed the identification of the processes and agents responsible for the formation and modification of the different bone assemblages of Schöningen 12 II. Our analysis points to different types of bones having been likely used as tools. These results expand the diversity of the organic technological repertoire of the Middle Pleistocene hominins, making Schöningen 12 II a remarkable new source of information on osseous technology long before the Upper Paleolithic, the period traditionally viewed as the start of the systematic use of bone tools. Together with other observations of bone tools documented during the Lower and Middle Paleolithic, the results from Schöningen show that archeologists may have underestimated the diversity and importance of osseous technology among archaic hominins. © 2015 Elsevier Ltd.

Serangeli J.,University of Tübingen | Bohner U.,Niedersachsisches Landesamt fur Denkmalpflege | van Kolfschoten T.,Leiden University | Conard N.J.,University of Tübingen | Conard N.J.,Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoecology
Journal of Human Evolution | Year: 2015

Archaeological finds including spears, other wooden artifacts, lithic artifacts, and bones with impact scars and cut marks document the repeated presence of hominins on the shoreline of an approximately 300,000 year old lake near Schöningen in Northern Germany. Continuing excavations have uncovered in the locality "Schöningen" at least 20 sites dating to the late Lower Paleolithic. Schöningen is therefore not only a singular archaeological site with remarkable finds; it is a vast locality that preserves a multifaceted archaeological landscape with numerous sites.Ongoing excavations have exposed several large surfaces with organic materials dating to MIS 9. In particular, recent excavations have uncovered new sections belonging to the original Spear Horizon from Schöningen 13 II-4 (the Horse Butchery Site).Current research in Schöningen places the exceptional artifacts within a spatial and environmental context, and provides a wealth of new information on the subsistence strategies and settlement dynamics of the inhabitants of these short-term lakeside occupations.Schöningen, with an overall excavated area of 9400 m2, is one of the largest excavated archaeological localities from MIS 9. Here we present a summary of all the sites, as well as the most relevant excavated areas since 2008 (excavations Tübingen/NLD). © 2015 Elsevier Ltd.

Conard N.J.,University of Tübingen | Conard N.J.,Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoecology | Serangeli J.,University of Tübingen | Bohner U.,Niedersachsisches Landesamt fur Denkmalpflege | And 5 more authors.
Journal of Human Evolution | Year: 2015

The exceptional preservation at Schöningen together with a mixture of perseverance, hard work, and sheer luck led to the recovery of unique finds in an exceptional context. The 1995 discovery of numerous wooden artifacts, most notably at least 10 carefully made spears together with the skeletons of at least 20 to 25 butchered horses, brought the debate about hunting versus scavenging among late archaic hominins and analogous arguments about the purportedly primitive behavior of Homo heidelbergensis and Neanderthals to an end. Work under H. Thieme's lead from 1992 to 2008 and results from the current team since 2008 demonstrate that late H. heidelbergensis or early Neanderthals used sophisticated artifacts made from floral and faunal materials, in addition to lithic artifacts more typically recovered at Lower Paleolithic sites. The finds from the famous Horse Butchery Site and two dozen other archeological horizons from the edges of the open-cast mine at Schöningen provide many new insights into the technology and behavioral patterns of hominins about 300 ka BP during MIS 9 on the Northern European Plain. An analysis of the finds from Schöningen and their contexts shows that the inhabitants of the site were skilled hunters at the top of the food chain and exhibited a high level of planning depth. These hominins had command of effective means of communication about the here and now, and the past and the future, that allowed them to repeatedly execute well-coordinated and successful group activities that likely culminated in a division of labor and social and economic patterns radically different from those of all non-human primates. The unique preservation and high quality excavations have led to a major paradigm shift or "Schöningen Effect" that changed our views of human evolution during the late Lower Paleolithic. In this respect, we can view the behaviors documented at Schöningen as a plausible baseline for the behavioral sophistication of archaic hominins of the late Middle Pleistocene and subsequent periods. © 2015 Elsevier Ltd.

Corsini J.A.,Eastern Oregon University | Bohme M.,University of Tübingen | Bohme M.,Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoecology | Joyce W.G.,University of Tübingen
Journal of Paleontology | Year: 2014

Testudo antiqua is one of the few fossil turtle names to have survived the past 200 years of taxonomic reshuffling with its original genus and specific epithet intact. The nine currently known specimens were collected from the middle Miocene Hohenhöwen locality in southern Germany. Because the available Hohenhöwen material was never fully described, we here completely document all known specimens. It is unclear which of these specimens formed the original T. antiqua type series, so we herein selected the best preserved representative as the neotype. A phylogenetic analysis places T. antiqua in a basal polytomy within the clade Testudo, indicating that T. antiqua may represent the ancestral morphology of Testudo. As with a number of other published studies, ours was unable to resolve relationships between the three extant Testudo lineages (the hermanni-group, the graeca/kleinmanni/marginata group, and the horsfieldii-group). Finally, with a view toward locating more turtles and in order to better understand the geological and ecological context of these tortoises, we visited Hohenhöwen several times to search for the original collection sites, but we were unable to locate the original fossil quarries described in the literature. Copyright © 2014, The Paleontological Society.

Vasilyan D.,University of Tübingen | Vasilyan D.,University of Fribourg | Bohme M.,Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoecology | Bohme M.,Comenius University | Klembara J.,Comenius University
Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology | Year: 2016

Citation for this article: Vasilyan, D., M. Böhme, and J. Klembara. 2016. First record of fossil Ophisaurus (Anguimorpha, Anguidae) from Asia. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. DOI: 10.1080/02724634.2016.1219739. 2016 © by the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology

Benz M.,Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg | Coskun A.,Dicle University | Hajdas I.,ETH Zurich | Deckers K.,University of Tübingen | And 5 more authors.
Radiocarbon | Year: 2012

One of the greatest challenges of contemporary archaeology is to synthesize the large amount of radiocarbon and archaeological data into a useful dialogue. For the late Epipaleolithic and the Early Neolithic of the Near East, many 14C ages have been published without precise stratigraphic documentation. Consequently, for archaeological age models we often must use some more elementary approaches, such as probabilistic summation of calibrated ages. The stratigraphy of Körtik Tepe allows us for the first time to study an extended series of 14C ages of the earliest Holocene. In particular, we are able to analyze the data according to stratigraphic position within a well-documented profile. However, because of a plateau in the 14C age calibration curve at the transition from the Younger Dryas to the Early Holocene, dates of this period can be interpreted only if an extended sequence of dates is available. Due to problems remaining in the calibration procedure, the best way to achieve an interpretation is to compare the results of different 14C calibration software. In the present paper, we use the results of the calibration programs OxCal and CalPal. This approach has important implications for future age modeling, in particular for the question of how to date the transition from the Epipaleolithic to the PPNA precisely and accurately. © 2012 by the Arizona Board of Regents on behalf of the University of Arizona.

Vasilyan D.,University of Tübingen | Bohme M.,University of Tübingen | Bohme M.,Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoecology | Chkhikvadze V.M.,Institute of Paleobiology | And 2 more authors.
Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology | Year: 2013

We present new and well-preserved giant salamander material from the Miocene of the Grytsiv locality, Ukraine. Disarticulated skull and postcranial bones from two individuals are described as a new taxon, Ukrainurus hypsognathus, gen. et sp. nov. U. hypsognathus is characterized by poorly ossified bone tissues, relatively inflexible mandibles, a high dentary, a crista on the lingual surface of the dentary, a pars dentalis of the dentary that is composed of a dental lamina and a subdental surface, presence of an eminentia dorsalis on the squamosal, a broad pericondylar facet on the occipital, extremely elongated prezygapophyses, and hemal processes with an elongate, oval base. Moreover, U. hypsognathus shows evidence of strong mandibular levator muscles that indicate great biting force. A phylogenetic analysis of all well-understood Tertiary and Recent giant salamanders recovers a monophyletic group of Asian and North American cryptobranchids, but places U. hypsognathus outside crown group Cryptobranchidae. This result suggests that Cryptobranchidae originated in Asia and dispersed to North America. The oldest representative of crown Cryptobranchidae is Aviturus exsecratus from the terminal Paleocene of the Nemegt Basin, Mongolia. © 2013 by the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Bohme M.,Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoecology | Bohme M.,University of Tübingen | Vasilyan D.,University of Tübingen | Winklhofer M.,Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich
Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology | Year: 2012

Environmental fluctuations are a driving force in vertebrate evolution, but cryptobranchids (giant salamanders) show little morphologic change since the Jurassic. Here we analyze their fossil distribution in the Cenozoic of Eurasia and show that morphologic stasis is also maintained by stable environments, making giant salamanders an ideal proxy-group for environmental and palaeoclimatic studies. The climate space of recent and fossil cryptobranchids is best characterized by high humidity with mean annual precipitation values over 900. mm. The recorded patchiness of their fossil record can be explained by habitat tracking and/or range expansion from higher altitudes into lowland settings during humid periods with increased basinal relief. In Central Asia cryptobranchids are recorded from five intervals, four of them are global warm periods: Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, Late Oligocene warming, Miocene Climate Optimum, and Mio-Pliocene transition. This distribution suggests that during global warmth the Asian cold high pressure zone during winter months may be weak or absent, thus moist westerly winds penetrate far into the continent. The presence of cryptobranchids also indicates that the aridification across the Eocene-Oligocene boundary as reported from Mongolia and northwestern China, does not occur in the Zaysan Basin, probably due to increased upslope precipitation in the rising Altai Mountains. © 2012 Elsevier B.V.

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