2014 GSA Annual Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia (19–22 October 2014)

Paper No. 292-11
Presentation Time: 11:10 AM


BLUMENTHAL, Scott A., Department of Anthropology, The Graduate Center and NYCEP, City University of New York, 365 5th Avenue, Room 6402, New York, NY 10016, LEVIN, Naomi E., Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Johns Hopkins University, 301 Olin Hall, 3400 North Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21218, PLUMMER, Thomas W., Department of Anthropology, Queens College and NYCEP, City University of New York, Powdermaker Hall 313A, 65-30 Kissena Blvd, Flushing, NY 11367, DITCHFIELD, Peter W., School of Archaeology, University of Oxford, Dyson Perrins Building, South Parks Rd, Oxford, OX1 3QY, United Kingdom, BISHOP, Laura C., Research Centre in Evolutionary Anthropology and Palaeoecology, School of Natural Sciences and Psychology, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, L3 3AF, United Kingdom, CHRITZ, Kendra L., Department of Biology, University of Utah, 257 S. 1400 E, Room 201, Salt Lake City, UT 84013, WHITFIELD, Liz, School of Natural Sciences and Psychology, Liverpool John Moores University, Byrom St, James Parsons Building, Room 238b, Liverpool, L3 3AF, United Kingdom, POTTS, Richard, Human Origins Program, Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, NHB 112, Washington, DC 20560-0112 and CERLING, Thure E., Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Utah, Frederick Albert Sutton Building, 115 S 1460 E, Room 383, Salt Lake City, UT 84112

The role of paleoclimatic dynamics in hominin evolution is not well understood, largely due to the difficulty of generating relevant terrestrial paleoclimate records. A stable isotope aridity index can be used to estimate water deficit (WD) using stable oxygen isotopes in mammalian tooth enamel. WD is a function of potential evapotranspiration (PET) and mean annual rainfall, and PET is a function of temperature and latitude. The index is based on a comparison of species that are categorized as evaporation insensitive (EI) and evaporation sensitive (ES), based on regressions between WD and the isotopic enrichment between oxygen isotope values in tooth enamel and local meteoric water (ɛenamel-mw). Taxa for which ɛenamel-mw does not change with WD are classified as EI, and reflect local meteoric water. Taxa for which ɛenamel-mwis sensitive to aridity are classified as ES, and reflect evaporative water sources (i.e. leaf or body water). Isotopic enrichment between EI and ES taxa increases with aridity. We present a revised calibration for the aridity index, based on a large compilation of previously published and new oxygen isotope values in tooth enamel (n > 1100 from 53 species of large mammals representing 34 locations in eastern and central Africa), that includes updated PET estimates and represents a substantially expanded range of WD values (>3700 mm/year).

The aridity index is used to estimate water deficit in the early Pleistocene of the Lake Victoria Basin, western Kenya. We present oxygen isotope values in fossil mammalian tooth enamel from the Homa Peninsula localities Kanjera South (ca. 2.0 Ma) and Nyayanga (1.78-2.3 Ma). We find that paleo-aridity estimates fall within the range of WD values in modern eastern African savanna biomes, and indicate that Kanjera South was less arid than Nyayanga. While paleo-aridity estimates must be interpreted with caution due to challenges relating to sample size, classification of EI and ES taxa, and geological context, these results demonstrate that this index can be used to reconstruct terrestrial paleoclimatic variation relevant to hominin evolution. Characterizing extant EI and ES taxa in other regions will expand the utility of this approach for examining animal water-use and terrestrial aridity in additional paleontological, archaeological, and modern systems.