Geology and palaeontology of the Upper Miocene Toros-Menalla hominid locality, Chad

Abstract

All six known specimens of the early hominid Sahelanthropus tchadensis come from Toros-Menalla site 266 (TM 266), a single locality in the Djurab Desert, northern Chad, central Africa. Here we present a preliminary analysis of the palaeontological and palaeoecological context of these finds. The rich fauna from TM 266 includes a significant aquatic component such as fish, crocodiles and amphibious mammals, alongside animals associated with gallery forest and savannah, such as primates, rodents, elephants, equids and bovids. The fauna suggests a biochronological age between 6 and 7 million years. Taken together with the sedimentological evidence, the fauna suggests that S. tchadensis lived close to a lake, but not far from a sandy desert, perhaps the oldest record of desert conditions in the Neogene of northern central Africa.

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Figure 1: Map of the Chad basin showing the location of the Toros-Menalla area.
Figure 2: Idealized section and palaeoenvironmental vertical evolution in the TM 266 hominid site.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the Chadian authorities (Ministère de l'Education Nationale de l'Enseignement Supérieur et de la Recherche, the Université de N'djamena, and CNAR). We extend gratitude for their support to the French Ministries, Ministère de l'Education Nationale (Faculté des Sciences, Université de Poitiers), Ministère de la Recherche (CNRS) and Ministère des Affaires Etrangères (Direction de la Coopération Scientifique, Universitaire et de Recherche, Paris, and SCAC Ambassade de France à N'djamena), to the Région Poitou-Charentes, the Département de la Vienne, the Association pour le Prix scientifique Philip Morris, and also to the Armée Française (MAM and Epervier) for logistic support. Many thanks to the National Museum of Kenya, National Museum of Ethiopia and University of California, who allowed us access to their collections. We especially thank A. Djimdoumalbaye, A. Beauvilain, J.-C. Bertrand, F. Gongdibé, M. Adoum and X. Valentin for field and technical work and all the other MPFT participants to our field missions. We thank F. Clark Howell, Y. Haile-Selassie, M. G. Leakey, D. Lieberman, M. Muungu, D. Pilbeam and T. White for insights and comments. We are most grateful to G. Florent for administrative guidance of the MPFT.

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Correspondence to Patrick Vignaud.

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Vignaud, P., Duringer, P., Mackaye, H. et al. Geology and palaeontology of the Upper Miocene Toros-Menalla hominid locality, Chad. Nature 418, 152–155 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature00880

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