|Title||Nonlinear detection of paleoclimate-variability transitions possibly related to human evolution.|
|Publication Type||Journal Article|
|Year of Publication||2011|
|Authors||Donges, JF, Donner, RV, Trauth, MH, Marwan, N, Schellnhuber, H-J, Kurths, J|
|Journal||Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America|
|Date Published||2011 Dec 5|
|Keywords||climate, extinction, paleoclimate, speciation|
Potential paleoclimatic driving mechanisms acting on human evolution present an open problem of cross-disciplinary scientific interest. The analysis of paleoclimate archives encoding the environmental variability in East Africa during the past 5 Ma has triggered an ongoing debate about possible candidate processes and evolutionary mechanisms. In this work, we apply a nonlinear statistical technique, recurrence network analysis, to three distinct marine records of terrigenous dust flux. Our method enables us to identify three epochs with transitions between qualitatively different types of environmental variability in North and East Africa during the (i) Middle Pliocene (3.35-3.15 Ma B.P.), (ii) Early Pleistocene (2.25-1.6 Ma B.P.), and (iii) Middle Pleistocene (1.1-0.7 Ma B.P.). A deeper examination of these transition periods reveals potential climatic drivers, including (i) large-scale changes in ocean currents due to a spatial shift of the Indonesian throughflow in combination with an intensification of Northern Hemisphere glaciation, (ii) a global reorganization of the atmospheric Walker circulation induced in the tropical Pacific and Indian Ocean, and (iii) shifts in the dominating temporal variability pattern of glacial activity during the Middle Pleistocene, respectively. A reexamination of the available fossil record demonstrates statistically significant coincidences between the detected transition periods and major steps in hominin evolution. This result suggests that the observed shifts between more regular and more erratic environmental variability may have acted as a trigger for rapid change in the development of humankind in Africa.
Nonlinear detection of paleoclimate-variability transitions possibly related to human evolution.
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