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The diets of ungulates from the hominid fossil-bearing site of Elandsfontein, Western Cape, South Africa

  • Deano D. Stynder


The dietary regimes of 15 ungulate species from the middle Pleistocene levels of the hominid-bearing locality of Elandsfontein, South Africa, are investigated using the mesowear technique. Previous studies, using taxonomic analogy, classified twelve of the studied species as grazers (Redunca arundinum, Hippotragus gigas, Hippotragus leucophaeus, Antidorcas recki, Homoiceras antiquus, Damaliscus aff. lunatus, Connochaetes gnou laticornutus, Rabaticerus arambourgi, Damaliscus niro, Damaliscus sp. nov., an unnamed “spiral horn” antelope and Equus capensis), one as a mixed feeder (Taurotragus oryx) and two as browsers (Tragelaphus strepsiceros and Raphicerus melanotis). Although results from mesowear analysis sustain previous dietary classifications in the majority of cases, five species were reclassified. Three species previously classified as grazers, were reclassified as mixed feeders (H. gigas, D. aff. lunatus and R. arambourgi), one previously classified as a grazer, was reclassified as a browser (the “spiral horn” antelope), and one previously classified as a mixed feeder, was reclassified as a browser (T. oryx). While current results broadly support previous reconstructions of the Elandsfontein middle Pleistocene environment as one which included a substantial C3 grassy component, the reclassifications suggest that trees, broad-leaved bush and fynbos were probably more prominent than what was previously thought.


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