Identification of fossilized eggshells from the Taung hominin locality, Taung, Northwest Province, South Africa

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Kuhn, B.F. ; Carlson, K.J. ; Hopley, Philip J. ; Zipfel, B. ; Berger, L.R. (2015)
  • Publisher: Paleontological Society
  • Subject: es

While an avian component within faunal remains from the Dart Deposits, Taung, South Africa, has been discussed for nearly a century, the taxa present have not been identified to species. Here we conduct a systematic analysis of fossilized eggshell fragments in order to document the presence of specific avian taxa at Taung during the Plio-Pleistocene. A comparative analysis of surface morphology and surface curvatures of fragmentary eggshells eliminated all but three extant avian taxa as potential sources for the fossilized fragments: a large eagle, an eagle owl (Bubo sp.) or a guinea fowl (subfamily Numidinae). The likelihood for each of these three taxa as a source is discussed by evaluating surface curvature matches between the fossilized fragments and extant eggshells. The two most complete fossil eggshells recovered from Taung have distinct carbon isotope signatures indicating that they belong to two different, granivorous and carnivorous, guilds. While these identifications contribute to the debate over whether or not there was an avian agent of collection for the Taung fossils, including perhaps the Taung Child, by establishing direct evidence for a raptor component in the Taung faunal assemblage, they cannot address specific predator-prey behaviour.
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