The origin of the Anthropocene? Carnivore extinctions and human evolution in eastern Africa

Friday seminar by Lars Werdelin


This talk will discuss the carnivore fossil record of eastern Africa during the past 4 million years, with emphasis on turnover and extinctions. Over this time the Carnivore shows a substantial decline in taxonomic richness from a peak around 3.5 Ma to the present. This decline is mainly among the large (>21 kg) carnivores and the specialist taxa (such as sabertooth cats). A deeper analysis shows that functional richness suffers a precipitous decline at around 2 Ma, such that functional richness today is only small fraction of what it was before 2 Ma; all large eastern African carnivores today can be classified as hypercarnivores. This pattern contrasts strongly with that seen on other continents and the talk will conclude with a discussion of the role of humans in these changes to the eastern African carnivore guild and their potential consequences for the remaining mammalian fauna.

Lars Werdelin, Professor
Department of Palaeobiology
Swedish Museum of Natural History

Published Sep. 19, 2014 12:20 PM - Last modified Sep. 19, 2014 12:20 PM