Scott Blumenthal: "Diet change in African primates: isotope evidence"
8 February 16:00
64 Banbury Road, Oxford
Scott Blumenthal is a Junior Research Fellow in Human Sciences at Wadham College and a Postdoctoral Research Fellow within the School of Archaeology, University of Oxford. He is also currently a Research Associate at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History (Washington DC, US) and was previously a Newton International Fellow (School of Archaeology, University of Oxford). He completed his PhD at the City University of New York (New York, US).
Scott’s research is focused on human origins, ancient environments, and stable isotopes in teeth. His current work explores dietary and climatic change in eastern Africa over the last 4 million years. He has conducted various laboratory-, museum-, and field-based studies on the life histories of prehistoric people and living primates in Africa.
Talk abstract: This talk will review current isotopic evidence for primate dietary evolution in Africa. Carbon isotopes have revealed a major dietary transition revealed by carbon isotopes in fossil teeth after 4 million years ago from a concentration of C3 plants (leaves, fruit and nuts from trees, shrubs, and herbs) to diets extended to include tropical C4 plants (grasses and sedges) and/or animals. By the early Pleistocene, multiple primate lineages were consuming significant amounts of C4 foods, and some species relied almost exclusively on these resources. What is the biological significance of this innovation, and its relationship to environmental changes? How did diets change over seasonal to geologic time-scales? How were foods partitioned among hominins, primates, and other mammals? What is the extent of C4 feeding among recent and historical primate populations? I will discuss ongoing projects seeking to address these questions.