Cenozoic Mammals of Africa

December 2nd, 2011

Werdelin L and WJ Sanders, eds. 2010. Cenozoic Mammals of Africa. University of California Press. 1008 pp. ISBN: 97-0520257214

Contributors:

P Andrews, MJ Armour-Chelu, RJ Asher, DM Avery, RL Bernor, LC Bishop, J-R Boisserie, DA Burney, PM Butler, TE Cerling, HBS Cooke, MC Coombs, SM Cote, C Delmer, PB DeMenocal, C Denys, J DeSilva, DP Domning, SJ Feakins, JG Fleagle, S Frost, TJ Gaudin, AW Gentry, D Geraards, E Gheerbrant, H Gilbert, PD Gingerich, LR Godfrey, M Godinot, GF Gunnell, M Gutiérrez, JM Harris, T Harrison, PA Holroyd, NG Jablonski, BF Jacobs, WL Jungers, TM Kaiser, J Kappelman, MG Leakey, NE Levin, ME Lewis, F Lihoreau, LM Maclatchy, ER Miller, M Morlo, EM, O’Brien, AD Pan, TC Partrirdge, BH Passey, S Peigné, DT Rasmussen, H Saegusa, WJ Sanders, E Shulz, CR Scotese, ER Seiffert, EL Simons, N Solounias, L Werdelin, E Weston, AJ Winkler, B Wood, IS Zalmout

Description:

This volume focuses on the evolution and systematics of African taxa over the past 65 million years, and is impressive in its size, scope and execution.  As the editors state in their introduction, the volume was undertaken with the aim of producing a successor to Evolution of African Mammals (Maglio and Cooke, 1978), one of the most important and influential resource books of its time that provided a detailed summary of what was then known about the African mammalian fossil record.  Clearly much has changed in the past 30+ years, with great improvements in the documentation and interpretation of the fossil record.  In the human fossil record alone, there has been an explosion of fossil finds and new taxa (for example, in the 1978 volume the earliest well-accepted hominin was Australopithecus africanus). The volume begins with five detailed chapters which outline our current understanding of the physical and temporal setting for the evolution of mammals in Africa.  The chapters focus on tectonics and geomorphology, chronology of Paleogene and Neogene mammal localities, global and regional climate,  and vegetation history.  The taxonomic core of the book follows, and is divided into chapters on metatherians (1 chapter), afrotheres (10), euarchontoglires (9), and laurasiatheres (20).  Taxonomic chapters are organized taxonomically and systematically.  They contain images illustrating important taxa and valuable tables summarizing the taxonomy, geological age, and site occurrences of the taxa covered in the text (and provide key references for this material).  The length of the taxonomic chapters is necessarily uneven, depending on the diversity of the group and the degree to which the taxa are researched and understood (e.g. the chapter on Cervidae is two pages, while Proboscidea is ninety-three).  Three concluding chapters provide broader perspectives on the phylogentic relationships and evolution of the Afrotheria, faunal composition and species richness across Africa, and adaptive transformation as recorded in isotopic composition.  All and all, this book is an essential resource for anyone interested in the evolution of mammals in Africa.

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