Neogene paleobiogeography and East African paleoenvironments: Contributions from the Tugen Hills rodents and lagomorphs

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A minimum of 28 genera of rodents and one genus of lagomorph were recovered from the Tugen Hills, Baringo District, Kenya, from localities dating from over 152.5 to about 4·4 Ma. The middle Miocene (sites dated between 15·8 and 15·3 Ma) rodent fauna recovered primarily from the Kipsaramon site complex, Muruyur Formation, includes a mixture of characteristically early Miocene taxa, and more derived forms. Composition of the African rodent fauna changes dramatically with the introduction of myocricetodontines, democricetodontines, and dendromurines, immigrants primarily from southern Asia. In the Tugen Hills, these taxa are first found in the Kabasero localities, Ngorora Formation, at sites dating from 12·5-12·33 Ma. A second major change in the African rodent fauna reflects the introduction of murines, immigrants from southern Asia. In the Tugen Hills murines are first encountered at Kapcheberek, Lukeino Formation, dated to 5·9-5·7 Ma. One rodent genus from the Lukeino Formation (Arvicanthis), and two from the Tabarin locality, Chemeron Formation (Heliosciurus, Paraxerus; 4·5-4·4 Ma), represent the earliest records of these extant African genera. A cricetomyine from the Ngorora Formation (12·5 Ma) is likely the earliest report of this exclusively African group. One of the earliest African records of porcupines (Hystricide) is from the Lukeino Formation. Lagomorphs are poorly represented, but include one of the earliest African occurrences of the family Leporidae from the Mpesida Beds (bracketed by dates of 7-6·2 Ma), and possibly a new genus of leporid from the Kapcheberek locality. Analysis of the Tugen Hills small mammals in association with other African records suggests several episodes of dispersal between Africa and Eurasia during the middle and late Miocene. Rodents from Kipsaramon are indicative of forests in conjunction with more open habitats. Those from the Kapcheberek locality are suggestive of a savanna habitat. The rodents from the Tabarin locality suggest a woodland environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)237-256
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Human Evolution
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 2002


  • Lagomorphs
  • Miocene
  • Paleobiogeography
  • Paleoenvironments
  • Pliocene
  • Rodents
  • Small mammals
  • Tugen hills

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Anthropology


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