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An astronomically-tuned climate framework for hominins in the Turkana Basin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • Josephine C. A. Joordens
  • Hubert B. Vonhof
  • Craig S. Feibel
  • Lucas J. Lourens
  • Guillaume Dupont-Nivet
  • Jeroen H. J. L. van der Lubbe
  • Mark J. Sier
  • Gareth R. Davies
  • Dick Kroon

Related Edinburgh Organisations

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Volume307
Issue number1-2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2011

Abstract

Understanding the influence of orbital climate cycles on hominin evolution remains a key challenge in paleoanthropology. The two major unresolved issues are: the absence of a climate proxy yielding high-resolution (< 20 kyr) terrestrial climate records, and the lack of age control on hominin fossil occurrences at sufficiently high resolution. Here we present a novel climate proxy, strontium isotope ratios (Sr-87/Sr-86) of lacustrine fish fossils from the Turkana Basin, that solves these issues by recording orbitally forced variation in summer monsoon intensity over the Ethiopian Highlands. We successfully applied the climate proxy to a similar to 150 kyr time interval of similar to 2 million year old paleolake deposits containing hominin fossils. Existing age control of the studied interval was improved by a new magnetostratigraphic record precisely locating the base of the Olduvai chron (C2n) near the bottom of the sequence. Spectral analysis demonstrates that Sr-87/Sr-86 variability is primarily determined by precession, which enables us to place hominin fossils in an astronomically-tuned climate framework. The Sr climate proxy is potentially applicable to all hominin-bearing lake deposits in the Turkana Basin, ranging in age from similar to 4.2 to 0.8 million years ago (Ma). Our results demonstrate that between similar to 2 and 1.85 Ma the Turkana Basin remained well-watered and inhabited by hominins even during periods of precession maxima when summer monsoon intensity was lowest. This is in contrast to other basins in the East African Rift System (EARS) that were impacted heavily by precession-forced droughts. We hypothesize that during lake phases, the Turkana Basin was an aridity refugium for permanent-water dependent fauna - including hominins - over the precessional climate cycles. (c) 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

    Research areas

  • strontium isotopes, fish apatite, Olduvai chron, precession cycles, aridity refugium, KOOBI-FORA-FORMATION, HUMAN-EVOLUTION, RIFT-VALLEY, AR-40/AR-39 GEOCHRONOLOGY, NORTHWEST KENYA, AFRICAN CLIMATE, LAKE TURKANA, EAST-AFRICA, OMO GROUP, PLIOPLEISTOCENE

ID: 1306026