Journal of Archaeological Science (1999) 26, 571-585
A. Arribas, P. Palmqvist
mesic - closed environments
xeric - open environments
Move from one to the other in E. Africa 2.5-1.6Ma more grazing animals, decline in frugivores and species with arboreal locomotion
Three sea level drops:
Aquatraversion 2.6-2.4Ma big sea level drop, mass extinction of marine fauna, large changes in continental flora and fauna - termed transition from warm Reuverian to cooler Praetiglian in Western Europe - extinction in Europe of tapir and arrival of Asian elephants and equids.
Aullan 1.8-1.6Ma minor sea level drop, arrival in Europe of several african immigrants including homo
Cassian 1.2-0.9Ma no great marine extinctions but large continental effect, "end-Villafranchian" dispersal event, transition to the Middle Pleistocene mammalian assemblage - in W. Europe known as Galerian assemblage
Europe stratiography less well defined and dated when contrasted to the rift valley - reliance on biostratgraphical study of faunal assemblages.
"Wolf Event" Villafranchian in Italy, Pleistocene arrival of Asian ruminants and african megaherbivores e.g. hippo - also african large cercopithecoid (old world monkey), several carnivores incl. giant hyaena, sabretooth.
Old world Monkey - Theropicidus oswaldi - essentially large african species (65kg) - but found in Spain and India
Canis arrived from New World 3.0Ma - China Canis etruscus 3Ma. In Europe arrival of a large canid is the "Wolf Event" with the arrival of Canis falconeri coyote sized (possible four toes on front leg like African Wild Dog - indicative of increased cursoriality). C.falconeri 2.5Ma China, 1.9Ma East Africa, 1.7Ma Europe.
Large Hyaena - Pachycrocuta brevirostris 10-20% bigger than current spotted hyaena, 2.5Ma India, 1.8Ma Europe, relatively common until extinction 0.5Ma, at the same time as the machairodonts (subfamily of sabre toothed cats) begin to decline and eventually disappear.
Machairodont Sabre toothed cat Megantereon many common features with Smilodon. Megantereon cultridens originates in florida but disperses over much of the world after 3.5Ma. In Africa M.cultidens probably gives rise to M.whitei (reduction in rear teeth sizes leads to a gap between P3 and P4 not seen in M.cultidens) M.whitei displaces M.cultidens in Europe in the early pliestocene.
The arrival of african species in western europe often starts in Spain, with the Iberian peninsula climatically and faunally part of Africa during the Neogene.
"The marked seasonality which characterized temperate Europe for most of the Pliestocene, with cooler and drier conditions than those of tropical Africa, made the availability of large ungulate carcasses for scavenging a key resource for hominids to survive during the cool season. Between 1.5 and 0.5Ma the composition of the European carnivore guild was quite different from that of East Africa, including two species of sabre-toothed cat (Homotherium latidens and M.whitei), which presumably maximised the amount of flesh that remained on their kills, thus opening broad opportunities for scavenging by both hyaenas and hominids."
The small sabred Homotherium was a relatively long legged pursuit predator with the size of a modern lion. Homotherium's long limb proportions are unique in felids in reducing prey grappling capabilities in favour of cursoraility. With longer front than back legs it probably had a sloping back. It had a large brain and enlarged optic centre like the modern cheetah.
The dirk toothed sabre tooths with the long blade like sabres (Smilodon and Megantereon) had shorter limbs, smaller brains and enhanced olefactory lobes. Limb proportions were similar to the modern jaguar suggesting similar closed habitat ambush. The powerful forelimbs suggest grappling and immobilisation of the prey along with a killing bite to the throat. Morphofunctional studies of M.whitei suggest it was incapable of exploiting much of the carcass thereby leaving much for scavengers.
Sabretoothed cats became extinct in East Africa around 1.5Ma but lingered in Europe until 0.5Ma. There may be a connection in East Africa with the rise of Acheulean tool making, as opposed to the Oldowan which persisted in Europe. The timings of Acheulan rise in Africa and arrival in Europe 1.4Ma and 0.5-0.4Ma are suggestive.
The main thesis of the paper that all of the above is building towards is to:
Include Homo as part of a faunal set that expanded range during these times
i.e. Homonids did not arrive in Europe (or indeed Asia) as part of their own independant migration driven by purely human considerations. (Authoroties dispute whether the first independant European arrival was 1Ma or 0.5Ma). But were part of an expansion by a wider faunal set that expanded into Europe during the "Wolf" event 1.7Ma
[The authors seem to have a vested interest in the Spanish Orce site with hominid bone and Oldowan assemblages dated at 1.4-1.0Ma and probalby hotly disputed by all those authorities that hold that there was no human in Europe before 1Ma]