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(2015) Handbook of Paleoanthropology, Dordrecht, Springer.


an adequate window on the past?

Thorolf Hardt, Peter R. Menke

pp. 571-622

Starting from Ernst Haeckel's famous definition of ecology, our review considers the premises and the meaning of paleoecological research. Unlike current ecology, paleoecology has to pay more attention when dealing with "real" reconstructions. The concept of uniformitarianism is presented and demonstrates the importance of philosophical constructs in scientific work. Middle-range theory attempts to filter out false conclusions. Abiotic factors have had a strong influence on adaptive evolution; volcanism, tectonics, and climate exemplify this. Subsequently, we address biotic aspects of fossil findings, and in this context we discuss taphonomy, stratigraphic research, and interactions between floral and faunal environment. In a synthesis, we present three cross sections of human evolution at different time horizons (early-middle-late) to exemplify the inevitable multidisciplinarity of paleoecology, and we present some key events that probably altered the direction of radiations among hominids. Obviously, human evolution is not a special kind of evolution; it follows the rules of evolutionary biology, and hence depends undoubtedly on environmental influences.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/978-3-642-39979-4_17

Full citation:

Hardt, T. , Menke, P. R. (2015)., Paleoecology: an adequate window on the past?, in W. Henke & I. Tattersall (eds.), Handbook of Paleoanthropology, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 571-622.

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