Paleoenvironmental Reconstruction of Middle Miocene Paleosols Bearing Kenyapithecus and Victoriapithecus, Nyakach Formation, Southwestern Kenya

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paleosol, paleoenvironment, middle Miocene, Kenyapithecus, Victoriapithecus

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Paleosols in the middle Miocene (15 Ma) Nyakach Formation at Kaimogool, near Sondu, southwestern Kenya have yielded specimens of the early cercopithecoid Victoriapithecus macinnesi and the early kenyapithecineKenyapithecus africanus , and can be used as evidence for the environmental mosaic occupied by these primates. Five distinct types of paleosols (pedotypes) are recognized in the Nyakach Formation section at Kaimogool South. The most common paleosols are reddish brown, silty calcareous profiles with blocky structure and large root traces (Ratong pedotype) which are interpreted as soils of well-drained, dry bushland or thicket (nyika). Weakly developed paleosols associated with paleochannels (Dhero pedotype) represent wooded grassland early in the ecological succession from streamside flooding. One of these paleosols has yielded a fossil flora of grasses and small-leaved dicots like those of modern semi-arid wooded grassland. Crumb structured, calcareous paleosols with iron-manganese nodules (Yom pedotype) are interpreted to represent seasonally waterlogged, wooded grassland (dambo or vlei). Thick, red clayey, calcareous paleosols with blocky ped structure and large root traces (Tut pedotype) are interpreted as soils of well-drained dry woodland. Other blocky-structured, gray to brown calcareous paleosols with iron-manganese nodules (Chido pedotype) are interpreted as soils of seasonally waterlogged, riparian dry woodland. Fossil soils, plants and gastropods are evidence of an unusually dry (300–500 mm mean annual precipitation) habitat for apes, consisting of a vegetational mosaic dominated by dry woodland, bushland and thickets with few areas of seasonally waterlogged grassland. Fossils of V. macinnesi are rare from Nyakach, but were found in paleosols representative of bushland and thicket habitats (Ratong). Fossils of the ape K. africanus were found within paleosols indicative of dry woodland (Tut). Other paleosol types representative of seasonally dry dambo grassland (Yom), colonizing grassland (Dhero) or riparian woodland (Chido) are also represented, but have not yet produced primate fossils.

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Journal of Human Evolution, v. 40, issue 4, p. 263-288