Fossil Bee Nest Found Near Taung Child Location

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Fossil Bee Nest Found Near Taung Child Location

#1  Postby Calilasseia » Oct 02, 2016 2:28 pm

From New Scientist, we have this interesting article ...

Ancient Bee Fossil Reveals Secrets Of Human Ancestor’s Habitat

By Colin Barras

The skull of an ape-like Australopithecus found in 1924 and nicknamed the Taung Child revolutionised our view of human origins. It suggested humans evolved in Africa, not Eurasia as previously thought.

No other hominin fossils have been found at the site since. But now a fossilised bee’s nest provides an insight into the local habitat in which that early human lived almost 3 million years ago – and hints that more fossils could be waiting to be discovered.

It is generally thought that the Taung Child was unearthed in the remains of a small cavern as the rocks containing the skull appear similar to cave-formed limestones.

“All other South African hominins come from cave sediments formed within old Precambrian [limestones],” says Philip Hopley at Birkbeck, University of London. These include Australopithecus sediba, discovered in 2008, and the impressive haul of Homo naledi skeletons found in 2013.

But in 2013, Hopley and his colleagues suggested an alternative: that the Taung Child was preserved in a 2.8-million-year-old surface soil.

A fossilised bee’s nest Hopley and his team found at Taung in 2010 supports the idea. It was built by an ancient relative of the solitary bees that nest on open ground in the present day, say the researchers.


The scientific paper is a free download from the journal:

Fossil Carder Bee's Nest From The Hominin Locality Of Taung South Africa by Jennifer F. Parker, Philip J. Hopley & Brian F. Kuhn, PLoS One, 11(9): e0161198 (28th September 2016) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0161198 [Full paper downloadable from here]

Parker et al, 2016 wrote:Abstract

The Buxton-Norlim Limeworks southwest of Taung, South Africa, is renowned for the discovery of the first Australopithecus africanus fossil, the ‘Taung Child’. The hominin was recovered from a distinctive pink calcrete that contains an abundance of invertebrate ichnofauna belonging to the Coprinisphaera ichnofacies. Here we describe the first fossil bee’s nest, attributed to the ichnogenus Celliforma, from the Plio-Pleistocene of Africa. Petrographic examination of a cell lining revealed the preservation of an intricate organic matrix lined with the calcitic casts of numerous plant trichomes–a nesting behaviour unique to the modern-day carder bees (Anthidiini). The presence of Celliforma considered alongside several other recorded ichnofossils can be indicative of a dry, savannah environment, in agreement with recent work on the palaeoenvironment of Plio-Pleistocene southern Africa. Moreover, the occurrence of ground-nesting bees provides further evidence that the pink calcrete deposits are of pedogenic origin, rather than speleogenic origin as has previously been assumed. This study demonstrates the potential value of insect trace fossils as palaeoenvironmental indicators.
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Re: Fossil Bee Nest Found Near Taung Child Location

#2  Postby tuco » Oct 02, 2016 3:30 pm

From OP article:

But if the fossil instead formed in an open, savannah-like soil environment, then much more of the rock at Taung is worth exploring. “The implication of this work is that more hominins could be found if a wider net was cast,” says Hopley.


Indeed.
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