Paleoenvironment of the Earliest Hominoids: New Evidence from the Oligocene Avifauna of Egypt

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Science  12 Sep 1986:
Vol. 233, Issue 4769, pp. 1202-1204
DOI: 10.1126/science.233.4769.1202


Analysis of fossil birds from the Oligocene Jebel Qatrani Formation in the Fayum depression of Egypt, site of the oldest known hominoid primates, allows precise paleoenvironmental reconstruction of the climatic and biotic conditions that influenced some of the earliest stages of hominoid evolution. Unlike the fossil mammals of the Fayum, which belong largely to extinct groups, most of the birds are referable to living families, with some being close to modern genera. The avifauna consists mainly of aquatic species, with such forms as jacanas (Jacanidae) and shoebilled storks (Balaenicipitidae) indicating expanses of freshwater with dense floating vegetation. An avifauna closely analogous to that of the Fayum is found today only in a limited area of Uganda, north and west of Lake Victoria, a region of swampland bordered by forest and grasslands that presents marked faunal similarities to the environment inferred for the Egyptian Oligocene.