The Turkana Basin (Kenya, Ethiopia) is famous for its rich fossil faunal record that spans millions of years, yielding vauable information about the earliest stages of hominin evolution. In our project, we presently focus on the upper Burgi Member of the Koobi Fora Formation on the east side of present-day Lake Turkana (Koobi Fora Ridge and Karari Ridge). These lake and delta deposits represent the time interval between ~ 2 and 1.87 Ma, which is particularly interesting because at least 3 hominin species then shared the landscape: Homo rudolfensis, H. habilis and Paranthropus boisei.
We use strontium isotope ratios (87Sr/86Sr) of fossil fish apatite, in combination with high-resolution magnetostratigraphy, as a novel proxy system to reconstruct regional paleoclimatology. This proxy approach allows capturing, at orbital (precession) timescales, of the variation in monsoonal strenth over the Ethiopian Highlands. In addition, this approach leads to a strong improvement in age control of hominin fossils. Hence, individual fossil occurrences can be placed in the astronomically-tuned regional climate framework. Further, we apply stable (carbon and oxygen) isotope analysis of modern and fossil aquatic fauna remains (molluscan shells, ostracods, fish bones and teeth) to reconstruct paleoenvironments.
This project is succesful thanks to ongoing close collaboration with internationally renowned experts in the fields of sedimentology, isotope geochemistry, paleomagnetic analysis,cyclostratigraphy, malacology and paleoclimatology: Craig S. Feibel (Rutgers University), Hubert Vonhof and Gareth Davies (VU University Amsterdam), Jeroen van der Lubbe (Kiel University), Guilllaume Dupont-Nivet (CNRS, Rennes), Lucas Lourens (Utrecht University), Henning Scholz (Humboldt University Berlin) and Dick Kroon (University of Edinburgh). Logistical support is provided by the Turkana Basin Institute.
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