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Speleothem evidence for C3 dominated vegetation during the Late Miocene (Messinian) of South Africa

Hopley, PJ; Reade, H; Parrish, R; De Kock, M; Adams, JW; (2019) Speleothem evidence for C3 dominated vegetation during the Late Miocene (Messinian) of South Africa. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology , 264 pp. 75-89. 10.1016/j.revpalbo.2019.02.006. Green open access

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Abstract

During the Late Miocene, Africa experienced a number of ecological transitions including the spread of C4 grasslands, the expansion of the Sahara Desert, the Messinian Salinity Crisis and a number of mammalian migrations and expansions, including the origin of the hominin clade. A detailed understanding of the relationship between environmental change and hominin evolution is hampered by the paucity of data available from terrestrial localities, especially in southern Africa. Here, we present a stable isotope and trace element record from a speleothem from the South African cave site of Hoogland. Uranium-lead dating and magnetostratigraphy places the speleothem within the Messinian Age (7.25–5.33 Ma) of the Late Miocene, making it the oldest known cave deposit from the region near the UNESCO Fossil Hominids of South Africa World Heritage Site (locally known as the “Cradle of Humankind”). Low carbon isotope values indicate a predominantly C3 vegetation in the vicinity of the cave throughout the period of speleothem growth. It is not possible to determine if this represents a C3 grassland or a C3 woodland, but it is clear that an equivalent C3-rich environment has yet to be found during the Messinian of east Africa. We conclude that the C4 grass expansion occurred millions of years later in South Africa than it did in eastern Africa, and that this vegetation shift should be considered when comparing African vegetation change with the late Miocene hominin fossil record.

Type: Article
Title: Speleothem evidence for C3 dominated vegetation during the Late Miocene (Messinian) of South Africa
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.revpalbo.2019.02.006
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.revpalbo.2019.02.006
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Messinian; speleothem; U-Pb age; stable isotopes; C3 vegetation; South Africa
UCL classification: UCL
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 > Institute of Archaeology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology > Institute of Archaeology Gordon Square
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10073314
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