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Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

Animals, not drought, shaped grasslands environment in Africa

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University of Utah  June 26 2017  full ScienceDaily article here
The expansion of grasslands isn’t solely due to drought, but more complex climate factors are at work, both for modern Africans now and ancient Africans in the Pleistocene, suggests new research….

Researchers from the University of Utah have found a better way. By analyzing isotopes of oxygen preserved in herbivore teeth and tusks, they can quantify the aridity of the region and compare it to indicators of plant type and herbivore diet. The results show that, unexpectedly, no long-term drying trend was associated with the expansion of grasses and grazing herbivores. Instead, variability in climate events, such as rainfall timing, and interactions between plants and animals may have had more influence on our ancestors’ environment. This shows that the expansion of grasslands isn’t solely due to drought, but more complex climate factors are at work, both for modern Africans now and ancient Africans in the Pleistocene.

Scott A. Blumenthal, Naomi E. Levin, Francis H. Brown, Jean-Philip Brugal, Kendra L. Chritz, John M. Harris, Glynis E. Jehle, Thure E. Cerling. Aridity and hominin environments. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2017; 201700597 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1700597114

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