Date of Award

8-1997

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Major

Anthropology

Major Professor

Andrew Kramer

Committee Members

Richard Jantz, Lyle Konigsberg

Abstract

This thesis will explore hominoid evolution from the joint perspectives of ecology and palaeoanthropology. Unique to this study is the idea of Ecosystematics. While ecologists tend to focus their attentions on the immediate context of organismal existence and survival (i.e., the ecosystem), palaeoanthropologists more often focus on the long term, evolutionary trends of organismal adaptation, with usually much less attention given to the context of such adaptations. The Ecosystematic cycle bridges together these ideas of proximate (immediate context) and ultimate (long term) adaptation towards the end of better understanding of evolutionary patterns and processes inherent to hominid development. In this study, the key tenets, ideas and principles of both ecology and palaeoanthropology will be introduced and explored from the specific vantage of Miocene hominoid origins, proximate survival, immediate and long term adaptations and ultimate evolution. Ecological variables of climatic change, resource availability, kinds and degrees of competition, and geographic variability will all be explored. All such variables have repeatedly been shown to have greatly moderated the means and modes by which hominoids have adapted in response to and evolved in conjunction with an ever-changing suite of ecological circumstances. Definite trends in ecological variability as relating to hominoid evolution will be discussed. Such trends are of such a recurrent/predictable nature that they provide a great resource/knowledge base. It is through the direct access of such knowledge base that palaeoanthropologists will be more readily able to interpret and understand the patterns and processes behind hominoid adaptation and evolution. In devising a more multi-dimensional, multi-disciplinary approach (i.e., Ecosystematics) the rhymes and reasons behind hominoid origins and evolution, both in ecological space and over evolutionary time, will be more clearly viewed and understood.

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