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Modelling the role of groundwater hydro-refugia in East African hominin evolution and dispersal

Cuthbert, Mark, Gleeson, T., Reynolds, S. C., Bennett, M. R., Newton, A. C., McCormack, C. J. and Ashley, G. M. 2017. Modelling the role of groundwater hydro-refugia in East African hominin evolution and dispersal. Nature Communications 8 , 15696. 10.1038/ncomms15696

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Abstract

Water is a fundamental resource, yet its spatiotemporal availability in East Africa is poorly understood. This is the area where most hominin first occurrences are located, and consequently the potential role of water in hominin evolution and dispersal remains unresolved. Here, we show that hundreds of springs currently distributed across East Africa could function as persistent groundwater hydro-refugia through orbital-scale climate cycles. Groundwater buffers climate variability according to spatially variable groundwater response times determined by geology and topography. Using an agent-based model, grounded on the present day landscape, we show that groundwater availability would have been critical to supporting isolated networks of hydro-refugia during dry periods when potable surface water was scarce. This may have facilitated unexpected variations in isolation and dispersal of hominin populations in the past. Our results therefore provide a new environmental framework in which to understand how patterns of taxonomic diversity in hominins may have developed.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: Published
Schools: Earth and Ocean Sciences
Publisher: Nature Publishing Group
ISSN: 2041-1723
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 5 June 2017
Date of Acceptance: 20 April 2017
Last Modified: 05 Jun 2017 09:43
URI: http://orca.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/101139

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