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, 49 (4), 432-51

The Palaeoecology of the Micromammals From the Late Middle Pleistocene Site of Hoedjiespunt 1 (Cape Province, South Africa)

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The Palaeoecology of the Micromammals From the Late Middle Pleistocene Site of Hoedjiespunt 1 (Cape Province, South Africa)

T Matthews et al. J Hum Evol.

Abstract

The palaeontological site of Hoedjiespunt 1 (HDP1) represents a fossilized hyaena lair. A rich mammalian fauna, including four hominid teeth, has been recovered from the site. Micromammals were recovered from the same sediments as the larger fauna. Taphonomic analysis suggests that the micromammal assemblages from HDP1 were accumulated by a barn owl. The barn owl produces micromammal assemblages that provide a broad sample of micromammals, within a certain size range, living in the hunting area of the owl. There are size-related and other biases inherent in the prey selection of this predator, and owls may roost in one area and hunt in another however, the barn owl has frequently been found to provide a better indication of micromammals living within an area than trapping. The micromammals from HDP1 were used to reconstruct the microhabitats in the vicinity of the site. Two taxonomic habitat indexes were used to assess the environment and dominant habitat types at Hoedjiespunt 1. The variability and adaptability of many of the southern African micromammals complicates interpretation of the results, however, it appears that the micromammals from the HDP1 fossil assemblages utilized habitats of open, scrub vegetation, and rocky and sandy areas. It is suggested that the environment was not markedly different from today, but it may have been relatively more arid. A comparison between HDP1 and other fossil sites in the area dating from the terminal Pleistocene to the Holocene indicates that HDP1 is lacking certain species that are common to all the other west coast fossil sites. There is some discrepancy in the environment indicated by the large mammals as compared that indicated by to the micromammals at the site. It is suggested that this discrepancy may reflect the fact that an owl is likely to have hunted in the vicinity of the hyaena den, probably in the more open areas around the roost site, whereas the macrofauna, accumulated by the further-ranging brown hyaena (Hyaena brunnea), represents environments from further afield.

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