Large mammal tracks in 1.8-million-year-old volcanic ash (Tuff IF, Bed I) at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania

Tessa Plint, Clayton R. Magill

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Abstract

Large animal tracks, unequivocally attributable to terrestrial mammals, are reported for the first time in sediment from uppermost Bed I (Tuff IF; ∼1.803 million years ago) at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. One track in particular (attributed to the ichnogenus Pecoripeda) retains an exceptional level of detail, demonstrating the excellent trackway-preserving potential of the volcanic ash fall (tuff) layers at this important hominin archaeological locality. Olduvai Gorge is renowned for its abundant Plio-Pleistocene (zoo)archaeological discoveries and fossiliferous deposits vis-à-vis studies of human evolution. Fossil trackways, and trace fossils more widely, provide an important additional tool for characterizing ancient ecosystems, which remain underexplored at Olduvai. Considered together with fossil hominin remains, information derived from coeval fossil animal tracks provides additional insight into our ancestors’ behaviour and their interactions with the surrounding palaeoenvironment. A range of large herbivore tracks indicates the availability of nearby resources (i.e., freshwater, vegetation preferred by grazers/browsers). These newly-discovered tracks are of archaeological and palaeontological significance because they highlight the potential for future discovery of animal or hominin tracks and trackways preserved in tuff at Olduvai and in other archaeological localities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)114-124
Number of pages11
JournalIchnos
Volume28
Issue number2
Early online date14 Jun 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Keywords

  • hominin evolution
  • mammal
  • Olduvai Gorge
  • palaeoecology
  • Tracks
  • volcanic tuff

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Palaeontology

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