Dietary strategies of Pleistocene Pongo sp. and Homo erectus on Java (Indonesia)

Bibliographic Collection: 
Publication Type: Journal Article
Authors: Kubat, Jülide; Nava, Alessia; Bondioli, Luca; Dean, M. Christopher; Zanolli, Clément; Bourgon, Nicolas; Bacon, Anne-Marie; Demeter, Fabrice; Peripoli, Beatrice; Albert, Richard; Lüdecke, Tina; Hertler, Christine; Mahoney, Patrick; Kullmer, Ottmar; Schrenk, Friedemann; Müller, Wolfgang
Year of Publication: 2023
Journal: Nature Ecology and Evolution
Volume: 7
Issue: 2
Pagination: 279 - 289
Date Published: 2023/02/01
Publication Language: eng
ISBN Number: 2397-334X

During the Early to Middle Pleistocene, Java was inhabited by hominid taxa of great diversity. However, their seasonal dietary strategies have never been explored. We undertook geochemical analyses of orangutan (Pongo sp.), Homo erectus and other mammalian Pleistocene teeth from Sangiran. We reconstructed past dietary strategies at subweekly resolution and inferred seasonal ecological patterns. Histologically controlled spatially resolved elemental analyses by laser-based plasma mass spectrometry confirmed the preservation of authentic biogenic signals despite the effect of spatially restricted diagenetic overprint. The Sr/Ca record of faunal remains is in line with expected trophic positions, contextualizing fossil hominid diet. Pongo sp. displays marked seasonal cycles with ~3 month-long strongly elevated Sr/Ca peaks, reflecting contrasting plant food consumption presumably during the monsoon season, while lower Sr/Ca ratios suggest different food availability during the dry season. In contrast, omnivorous H. erectus shows low and less accentuated intra-annual Sr/Ca variability compared to Pongo sp., with δ13C data of one individual indicating a dietary shift from C4 to a mix of C3 and C4 plants. Our data suggest that H. erectus on Java was maximizing the resources available in more open mosaic habitats and was less dependent on variations in seasonal resource availability. While still influenced by seasonal food availability, we infer that H. erectus was affected to a lesser degree than Pongo sp., which inhabited monsoonal rain forests on Java. We suggest that H. erectus maintained a greater degree of nutritional independence by exploiting the regional diversity of food resources across the seasons.

Short Title: Nature Ecology & Evolution