Ecological research often assumes that species are adapted to their current climatic environments. However, climate fluctuations over geologic timescales have influenced species dispersal and extinction, which in turn may affect community structure. Modern community structure is likely to be the product of both palaeoclimate and modern climate, with the relative degrees of influence of past and present climates unknown. Here, we assessed the influence of climate at different time periods on the phylogenetic and functional trait structure of 203 African mammal communities. We found that the climate of the mid-Holocene (approx. 6000 years ago) and Last Glacial Maximum (approx. 22 000 years ago) were frequently better predictors of community structure than modern climate for mammals overall, carnivorans and ungulates. Primate communities were more strongly influenced by modern climate than palaeoclimate. Overall, community structure of African mammals appears to be related to the ecological flexibility of the groups considered here and the regions of continental Africa that they occupy. Our results indicate that the future redistribution, expansion and contraction of particular biomes due to human activity, such as climate and land-use change, will differentially affect mammal groups that vary in their sensitivity to environmental change.
Source: A novel fecal stable isotope approach to determine the timing of age-related feeding transitions in wild infant chimpanzees – Bădescu – 2016 – American Journal of Physical Anthropology – Wiley Online Library
The ancestry of the European bison (wisent) remains a mystery. Here, Cooper and colleagues examine ancient DNA from fossil remains of extinct bison, and reveal the wisent originated through the hybridization of the extinct Steppe bison and ancestors of modern cattle.
Past volcanic eruptions along the densely populated Ethiopian Rift valley remain poorly constrained despite the present day hazard. Hutchison et al. show that a large volcanic flare up along a 200 km section of the rift occurred between 320–170 ka dramatically affecting the landscape and hominin population.
Of all the human uniqueness claims proposed over the years, theory of mind enjoys perhaps the most prominent status. The term “theory of mind” refers to the ability to know what others know, that is, to attribute mental states such as intentions, goals, and knowledge to others. It is widely held to be unique to humans. Yet, given the results reported by Krupenye et al. on page 110 of this issue, this claim is starting to wobble ( 1 ). The authors show that apes can correctly anticipate where human actors will look for a hidden item, even if the apes know that the item is no longer there. Ironically, this finding brings us back to square one, because apes played a major role in the formulation of the theory of mind concept.