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Sporadic sampling, not climatic forcing, drives observed early hominin diversity

Maxwell, SJ; Hopley, PJ; Upchurch, P; Soligo, C; (2018) Sporadic sampling, not climatic forcing, drives observed early hominin diversity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , 115 (19) pp. 4891-4896. 10.1073/pnas.1721538115. Green open access

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Abstract

The role of climate change in the origin and diversification of early hominins is hotly debated. Most accounts of early hominin evolution link observed fluctuations in species diversity to directional shifts in climate or periods of intense climatic instability. None of these hypotheses, however, have tested whether observed diversity patterns are distorted by variation in the quality of the hominin fossil record. Here, we present a detailed examination of early hominin diversity dynamics, including both taxic and phylogenetically corrected diversity estimates. Unlike past studies, we compare these estimates to sampling metrics for rock availability (hominin-, primate-, and mammal-bearing formations) and collection effort, to assess the geological and anthropogenic controls on the sampling of the early hominin fossil record. Taxic diversity, primate-bearing formations, and collection effort show strong positive correlations, demonstrating that observed patterns of early hominin taxic diversity can be explained by temporal heterogeneity in fossil sampling rather than genuine evolutionary processes. Peak taxic diversity at 1.9 million years ago (Ma) is a sampling artifact, reflecting merely maximal rock availability and collection effort. In contrast, phylogenetic diversity estimates imply peak diversity at 2.4 Ma and show little relation to sampling metrics. We find that apparent relationships between early hominin diversity and indicators of climatic instability are, in fact, driven largely by variation in suitable rock exposure and collection effort. Our results suggest that significant improvements in the quality of the fossil record are required before the role of climate in hominin evolution can be reliably determined.

Type: Article
Title: Sporadic sampling, not climatic forcing, drives observed early hominin diversity
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1721538115
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1721538115
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2018 the Author(s). This open access article is distributed under Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-NoDerivatives License 4.0 (CC BY-NC-ND).
Keywords: Early hominin diversity, sampling bias, fossil record quality, Africa, climate
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences > Dept of Earth Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10047191
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