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Title: Ecometrics and the paleoecological implications of Pleistocene faunas from the western coastal plains of the Cape Floristic Region, South Africa

The Pleistocene ungulate communities from the western coastal plains of South Africa's Cape Floristic Region (CFR) are diverse and dominated by grazers, in contrast to the region's Holocene and historical faunas, which are relatively species‐poor and dominated by small‐bodied browsers and mixed feeders. An expansion of grassy habitats is clearly implied by the Pleistocene faunas, but the presence of ruminant grazers that cannot survive the summer dry season typical of the region today suggests other important paleoecological changes. Here we use dental ecometrics to explore the paleoecological implications of the region's Pleistocene faunas. We show that the dental traits (hypsodonty and occlusal topography) of the ungulates that occurred historically in the CFR track annual and summer aridity, and we use these relationships to reconstruct past aridity. Our results indicate that the Pleistocene faunas signal paleoenvironments that were on average less arid than today, including during the summer, consistent with other lines of evidence that suggest a higher water table and expansion of well‐watered habitats. Greater water availability can be explained by lower temperature and reduced evapotranspiration during cooler phases of the Pleistocene, probably coupled with enhanced groundwater recharge due to increased winter precipitation.

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Author(s) / Creator(s):
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Publisher / Repository:
Wiley Blackwell (John Wiley & Sons)
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of Quaternary Science
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 1007-1020
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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