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The hunters and the hunted revisited

Journal of Human Evolution
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1006/jhev.2000.0436
  • Hominids
  • Predators
  • Prey
  • Hominids
  • Stable Carbon Isotopes
  • Swartkrans


Abstract The dietary niches of extinct animals, including hominids and predators, may be constrained using stable carbon isotope ratios in fossil tooth enamel. 13C/ 12C ratios of many of the primates abundant in the faunal assemblages of Members 1 and 2 at Swartkrans, including cercopithecoids and Australopithecus ( Paranthropus) robustus, and a range of other possible prey species, have been reported previously. Resulting suggestions of a mixed, or omnivorous, diet for A. robustus raise questions about niche overlap with coeval, larger brained Homo. Here we present 13C/ 12C data from Homo and several large predators including Panthera pardus, Dinofelis sp., Megantereon cultridens and Chasmoporthetes nitidula in Member 1, and P. pardus and P. leo in Member 2, in order to compare the two hominid species and to determine likely predators of the various primates and other macrovertebrates. Results for three Homo cf. ergaster individuals are indistinguishable from those of A. robustus, showing that proportions of C 3- and C 4-based foods in their diets did not differ. P. pardus, Megantereon and Crocuta are shown to be likely predators of the hominids and Papio baboons in Member 1, while the Dinofelis individual concentrated on prey which consumed C 4grasses. The hunting hyaenid C. nitidula preyed on either mixed feeders or on a range of animals across the spectrum of C 3and C 4variation. The data from Members 1 and 2 confirm a shift in leopard diets towards animals that consumed C 4grasses.

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