Matching Items (13)

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The Evolution of Human Cervical Lordosis

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Many of the derived features of the human skeleton can be divided into two adaptive suites: traits related to bipedalism and traits related to encephalization. The cervical spine connects these

Many of the derived features of the human skeleton can be divided into two adaptive suites: traits related to bipedalism and traits related to encephalization. The cervical spine connects these adaptive suites and is itself unique in its marked lordosis. I approach human cervical evolution from three directions: the functional significance of cervical curvature, the identification of cervical lordosis in osteological material, and the representation of the cervical spine in the hominin fossil record.

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  • 2014-05

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Environmental Impacts on Light Stable Isotope Systems

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Isotopic analyses of archaeological and modern materials are commonly used to reconstruct diet, climate, and habitat. This study analyzes 15 camelid samples from three sites (two archaeological, one modern) in

Isotopic analyses of archaeological and modern materials are commonly used to reconstruct diet, climate, and habitat. This study analyzes 15 camelid samples from three sites (two archaeological, one modern) in South America to determine their carbon and nitrogen isotopic values to further explore the relationship between stable isotopes and environments. Camelid individuals in the modern site of Cuenca, Ecuador had a diet of almost entirely C3 vegetation, while those in Chen Chen, Peru had slightly higher values, still consistent with C3 plants. Those in the higher altitude site of Pumapunku, Bolivia had higher δ13C values than expected, indicating they may have been foddered with a mixed diet. These isotopic data indicate that vegetation, and therefore herbivore diets, are influenced by altitude. Additionally, it was found that a positive linear relationship exists between δ15N values and aridity of a site. Results indicate that aspects of the environment such as aridity are reflected in isotopic signatures. These results contribute to the increasing amount of data on isotopic variation in South American camelids, both modern and archaeological.

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  • 2016-05

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Identifying the Lagomorphs of 111 Ranch

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This study was conducted in order to determine whether the lagomorphs of 111 Ranch- Aztlanolagus agilis, Hypolagus arizonensis, and Sylvilagus cunicularius- could be distinguished based on femora. This is because

This study was conducted in order to determine whether the lagomorphs of 111 Ranch- Aztlanolagus agilis, Hypolagus arizonensis, and Sylvilagus cunicularius- could be distinguished based on femora. This is because while there is a large quantity of disarticulated lagomorph postcranial fossils from 111 Ranch, the chief diagnostic traits of A. agilis and H. arizonensis are the enamel patterns on their third premolars, leaving a large swath of specimens unidentifiable by diagnostic traits alone. Specimens from the Arizona Museum of Natural History were measured and compared to specimens known to be from these genera. Additionally, morphological traits in mandibles were used to identify mandible specimens, which in turn were used to identify fossils with the same specimen label. Statistical tests such as t-tests and principal components analyses were used to examine the distributions of sizes and locate clusters of datapoints likely corresponding to each genus. Some of these could be linked to a genus based on one particular specimen, P15156, which had been identified as Hypolagus based on its mandible morphology and size. The majority of the Museum'a specimens were thus associated with one of the three species, save for those which were too damaged and intermediate in size to confidently categorize.

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  • 2019-05

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Positional behaviors and the neck: a comparative analysis of the cervical vertebrae of living primates and fossil hominoids

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Despite the critical role that the vertebral column plays in postural and locomotor behaviors, the functional morphology of the cervical region (i.e., the bony neck) remains poorly understood, particularly in

Despite the critical role that the vertebral column plays in postural and locomotor behaviors, the functional morphology of the cervical region (i.e., the bony neck) remains poorly understood, particularly in comparison to that of the thoracic and lumbar sections. This dissertation tests the hypothesis that morphological variation in cervical vertebrae reflects differences in positional behavior (i.e., suspensory vs. nonsuspensory and orthograde vs. pronograde locomotion and postures). Specifically, this project addresses two broad research questions: (1) how does the morphology of cervical vertebrae vary with positional behavior and cranial morphology among primates and (2) where does fossil hominoid morphology fall within the context of the extant primates. Three biomechanical models were developed for the primate cervical spine and their predictions were tested by conducting a comparative analysis using a taxonomically and behaviorally diverse sample of primates. The results of these analyses were used to evaluate fossil hominoid morphology. The two biomechanical models relating vertebral shape to positional behaviors are not supported. However, a number of features distinguish behavioral groups. For example, the angle of the transverse process in relation to the cranial surface of the vertebral body--a trait hypothesized to reflect the deep spinal muscles' ability to extend and stabilize the neck--tends to be greater in pronograde species; this difference is in the opposite of the direction predicted by the biomechanical models. Other traits distinguish behavioral groups (e.g., spinous process length and cross-sectional area), but only in certain parts of the cervical column. The correlation of several vertebral features, especially transverse process length and pedicle cross-sectional area, with anterior cranial length supports the predictions made by the third model that links cervical morphology with head stabilization (i.e., head balancing). Fossil hominoid cervical remains indicate that the morphological pattern that characterizes modern humans was not present in Homo erectus or earlier hominins. These hominins are generally similar to apes in having larger neural arch cross-sectional areas and longer spinous processes than modern humans, likely indicating the presence of comparatively large nuchal muscles. The functional significance of this morphology remains unclear.

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  • 2013

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A dental topographic analysis of deciduous tooth wear in hominoids

Description

Early weaning, slow somatic and dental growth, and late age at reproduction are all part of a suite of energetic trade-offs that have shaped human evolution. A similar suite of

Early weaning, slow somatic and dental growth, and late age at reproduction are all part of a suite of energetic trade-offs that have shaped human evolution. A similar suite of energetic trade-offs has shaped the evolution of the indriid-palaeopropithecid clade, though members of this clade exhibit extremely fast dental development and nearly vestigial deciduous teeth. The development and functional occlusion of the primary postcanine dentition (i.e., deciduous premolars and molars) coincides with several life history parameters in great apes and indriids. This dissertation explored great ape dental macrowear, molar development in indriids, and molar size in lemurs with a broader goal of improving reconstructions of life history profiles in extinct primates. To this aim, macrowear and dental development were analyzed in apes and lemurs, respectively. Occlusal casts (six great ape species; N=278) were scanned to track mandibular fourth deciduous premolar (dp4) macrowear. Utilizing dental topographic analyses, changes in occlusal gradient and terrain were quantified. A subset of the great ape data (four species; n=199) was analyzed to test if differences in dp4 wear correlate with age at weaning. Using dental histology, molar development was reconstructed for Indri indri (n=1) and Avahi laniger (n=1). Life history and molar size data were collected from the literature. The results of this dissertation demonstrate that most great apes exhibited evidence of topographic maintenance, suggesting dp4s wear in a manner that maintain functional efficiency during growth and development; however, the manner in which maintenance is achieved (e.g., preservation of relief or complexity) is species specific. Dp4 macrowear is not correlated with age at weaning in great apes and is probably unreliable to reconstruct age at weaning in hominins. The pace of molar development in members of the indriid- palaeopropithecid clade did not correlate with body or brain size, an association present in several other primates. Associations of molar size with age at weaning suggest that expanding other developmental models (e.g., the inhibitory cascade) to life history is worth consideration. The broad variation in macrowear, dental development, and size highlights how the primary dentition may correlate with different life history parameters depending on the species and ecological setting, an important consideration when using teeth to reconstruct life history profiles.

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  • 2016

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Hominin Dietary Niche Breadth Expansion During Pliocene Environmental Change in Eastern Africa

Description

Stable carbon isotope data for early Pliocene hominins Ardipithecus ramidus and Australopithecus anamensis show narrow, C3-dominated isotopic signatures. Conversely, mid-Pliocene Au. afarensis has a wider isotopic distribution and consumed both

Stable carbon isotope data for early Pliocene hominins Ardipithecus ramidus and Australopithecus anamensis show narrow, C3-dominated isotopic signatures. Conversely, mid-Pliocene Au. afarensis has a wider isotopic distribution and consumed both C3 and C4 plants, indicating a transition to a broader dietary niche by ~ 3.5 million years ago (Ma). Dietary breadth is an important aspect of the modern human adaptive suite, but why hominins expanded their dietary niche ~ 3.5 Ma is poorly understood at present. Eastern Africa has produced a rich Pliocene record of hominin species and associated mammalian faunas that can be used to address this question. This dissertation hypothesizes that the shift in hominin dietary breadth was driven by a transition to more open and seasonal environments in which food resources were more patchily distributed both spatially and temporally. To this end, I use a multiproxy approach that combines hypsodonty, mesowear, faunal abundance, and stable isotope data for temporally well-constrained early and mid-Pliocene mammal assemblages (5.3-2.95 Ma) from Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania to infer patterns of environmental change through time. Hypsodonty analyses revealed that early Pliocene sites had higher annual precipitation, lower precipitation seasonality, and lower temperature seasonality than mid-Pliocene sites. Mesowear analyses, however, did not show from attrition- to abrasion- dominated wear through time. Abundance data suggest that there was a trend towards aridity, as Tragelaphini (woodland antelope) decline while Alcelaphini (grassland antelope) increased in abundance through time. Carbon isotope data indicate that most taxa shifted to diets focusing on C4 grasses through time, which closely follows paleosol carbon isotope data documenting the expansion of grassland ecosystems in eastern Africa. Overall, the results suggest Ar. ramidus and Au. anamensis preferentially exploited habitats in which preferred food resources were likely available year-round, whereas Au. afarensis lived in more variable, seasonal environments in which preferred foods were available seasonally. Au. afarensis and K. platyops likely expanded their dietary niche in less stable environments, as reflected in their wider isotopic niche breadth.

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  • 2020

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Modeling the origins of primate sociality: kin recognition in mouse lemurs

Description

Arguments of human uniqueness emphasize our complex sociality, unusual cognitive capacities, and language skills, but the timing of the origin of these abilities and their evolutionary causes remain unsolved. Though

Arguments of human uniqueness emphasize our complex sociality, unusual cognitive capacities, and language skills, but the timing of the origin of these abilities and their evolutionary causes remain unsolved. Though not unique to primates, kin-biased sociality was key to the success of the primate order. In contrast to ancestral solitary mammals, the earliest primates are thought to have maintained dispersed (non-group living) social networks, communicating over distances via vocalizations and scent marks. If such ancestral primates recognized kin, those networks may have facilitated the evolution of kin-biased sociality in the primate order and created selection for increased cognitive and communicative abilities. I used the gray mouse lemur (Microcebus murinus) to model whether vocalizations could have facilitated matrilineal and patrilineal kin recognition in ancestral primates. Much like mouse lemurs today, ancestral primates are thought to have been small-bodied, nocturnal creatures that captured insects and foraged for fruit in the thin, terminal ends of tree branches. Thus, the mouse lemur is an excellent model species because its ecological niche is likely to be similar to that of ancestral primates 55-90 million years ago. I conducted playback experiments in Ankarafantsika National Park, Madagascar testing whether mouse lemur agonistic calls contain matrilineal kin signatures and whether the lemurs recognize matrilineal kin. In contrast to large-brained, socially complex monkeys with frequent coalitionary behavior, mouse lemurs did not react differently to the agonistic calls of matrilineal kin and nonkin, though moderate signatures were present in the calls. I tested for patrilineal signatures and patrilineal kin recognition via mating and alarm calls in a colony with known pedigree relationships. The results are the first to demonstrate that a nocturnal, solitary foraging mammal gives mating calls with patrilineal signatures and recognizes patrilineal kin. Interestingly, alarm calls did not have signatures and did not facilitate kin recognition, suggesting that selection for kin recognition is stronger in some call types than others. As this dissertation is the first investigation of vocal kin recognition in a dispersed-living, nocturnal strepsirrhine primate, it greatly advances our knowledge of the role of vocal communication in the evolution of primate social complexity.

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  • 2014

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Stable isotope analysis of archaeological and modern micromammals from the Greater Cape Floristic Region near Pinnacle Point, on the south coast of South Africa

Description

The Middle Stone Age archaeological record from the south coast of South Africa contains significant evidence for early modern human behavior. The south coast is within the modern Greater Cape

The Middle Stone Age archaeological record from the south coast of South Africa contains significant evidence for early modern human behavior. The south coast is within the modern Greater Cape Floristic Region (GCFR), which in the present-day encompasses the entirety of South Africa’s Winter Rainfall Zone (WRZ) and contains unique vegetation elements that have been hypothesized to be of high utility to hunter-gatherer populations. Extant paleoenvironmental proxy records for the Pleistocene in the region often indicate evidence for more open environments during the past than occur in the area in the present-day, while climate models suggest glacial presence of the WRZ that would support maintenance of C3-predominant GCFR vegetation.

These paleoenvironmental proxies sample past environments at geographic scales that are often regional. The GCFR flora is hyper-diverse, and glacial climate change-driven impacts on local vegetation could have been highly variable over relatively small geographic scales. Proxy records that are circumscribed in their geographic scale are thus key to our understanding of ancient environments at particular MSA archaeological localities.

Micromammal fossil teeth are now recognized as an abundant potential reservoir of paleoenvironmental proxy data at an extremely local scale. This study analyzed modern micromammal teeth obtained from raptor pellets at three locations on the south coast. Stable carbon isotope analysis indicates that the modern micromammals from the taxa sampled consume a wide range of δ13Cplant on the landscape when it is available, and thus stable carbon isotope analysis of micromammal teeth should act as a proxy for the range of available δ13Cdiet in a circumscribed area of vegetation.

Micromammal stable carbon isotope data obtained from specimens from one of the few well-dated MIS6-MIS5 sequences in the region (Pinnacle Point sites 13B, 30, and 9C). δ13Cenamel values for the taxa sampled indicate diets that are primarily C3, and there is almost no evidence for a dietary C4 grass component in any of the sampled specimens. This indicates that, at a minimum, pockets of C3 vegetation associated with the GCFR were likely available to hunter-gatherers at Pinnacle Point throughout the Middle and Late Pleistocene.

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  • 2015

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The Hominin Sites and Paleolakes Drilling Project: Inferring the Environmental Context of Human Evolution From Eastern African Rift Lake Deposits

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The role that climate and environmental history may have played in influencing human evolution has been the focus of considerable interest and controversy among paleoanthropologists for decades. Prior attempts to

The role that climate and environmental history may have played in influencing human evolution has been the focus of considerable interest and controversy among paleoanthropologists for decades. Prior attempts to understand the environmental history side of this equation have centered around the study of outcrop sediments and fossils adjacent to where fossil hominins (ancestors or close relatives of modern humans) are found, or from the study of deep sea drill cores. However, outcrop sediments are often highly weathered and thus are unsuitable for some types of paleoclimatic records, and deep sea core records come from long distances away from the actual fossil and stone tool remains. The Hominin Sites and Paleolakes Drilling Project (HSPDP) was developed to address these issues. The project has focused its efforts on the eastern African Rift Valley, where much of the evidence for early hominins has been recovered. We have collected about 2 km of sediment drill core from six basins in Kenya and Ethiopia, in lake deposits immediately adjacent to important fossil hominin and archaeological sites. Collectively these cores cover in time many of the key transitions and critical intervals in human evolutionary history over the last 4 Ma, such as the earliest stone tools, the origin of our own genus Homo, and the earliest anatomically modern Homo sapiens. Here we document the initial field, physical property, and core description results of the 2012–2014 HSPDP coring campaign.

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  • 2016-02-19

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Climate and Species Richness Predict the Phylogenetic Structure of African Mammal Communities

Description

We have little knowledge of how climatic variation (and by proxy, habitat variation) influences the phylogenetic structure of tropical communities. Here, we quantified the phylogenetic structure of mammal communities in

We have little knowledge of how climatic variation (and by proxy, habitat variation) influences the phylogenetic structure of tropical communities. Here, we quantified the phylogenetic structure of mammal communities in Africa to investigate how community structure varies with respect to climate and species richness variation across the continent. In addition, we investigated how phylogenetic patterns vary across carnivores, primates, and ungulates. We predicted that climate would differentially affect the structure of communities from different clades due to between-clade biological variation. We examined 203 communities using two metrics, the net relatedness (NRI) and nearest taxon (NTI) indices. We used simultaneous autoregressive models to predict community phylogenetic structure from climate variables and species richness. We found that most individual communities exhibited a phylogenetic structure consistent with a null model, but both climate and species richness significantly predicted variation in community phylogenetic metrics. Using NTI, species rich communities were composed of more distantly related taxa for all mammal communities, as well as for communities of carnivorans or ungulates. Temperature seasonality predicted the phylogenetic structure of mammal, carnivoran, and ungulate communities, and annual rainfall predicted primate community structure. Additional climate variables related to temperature and rainfall also predicted the phylogenetic structure of ungulate communities. We suggest that both past interspecific competition and habitat filtering have shaped variation in tropical mammal communities. The significant effect of climatic factors on community structure has important implications for the diversity of mammal communities given current models of future climate change.

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  • 2015-04-15