New publication from the Paleo-Primate Project Gorongosa describes the first Miocene fossils from coastal woodlands in the southern East African Rift in Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique
After four field seasons, extensive surveys, and new approaches in the search of paleontological sites, a new publication from the Paleo-Primate Project Gorongosa describes the first Miocene fossils from coastal woodlands in the southern East African Rift in Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique. The Miocene epoch extends from approximately 23 to 5.3 million years ago and was a key time in the evolution of African ecosystems, witnessing the origin of the African apes and the isolation of eastern coastal forests through an expanding arid corridor. In the article published in iScience, the team describe new fossil sites in Gorongosa National Park, dated to the Miocene, that open an entirely new vista on a region of Africa that, until recently, had remained paleontologically unknown. The Gorongosa fossil sites described yielded an exceptional assemblage of fossil woods (e.g., African mahogany), marine invertebrates (crabs, gastropods, bivalves), marine vertebrates (sharks and rays), reptiles (crocodiles, tortoises), and new species of terrestrial mammals (e.g., hyracoids) – a unique combination known at no other sites along the East African Rift System. Whilst today these sites are located ∼95 km from the modern coast and ∼100–120 m above sea level, the geological, sedimentological, paleobotanical, geochemical, and paleontological evidence indicates that the Gorongosa fossil sites formed in coastal settings, offering the first evidence of woodlands and forests on the coastal margins of southeastern Africa during the Miocene. These new paleontological sites in Gorongosa National Park open a unique window on the fauna and environments of ancient Africa. The Gorongosa fossils documented represent the first descriptions of a substantial fossil record that is just emerging and will form a powerful database for testing important hypotheses about the role of the eastern coastal forests in shaping the evolution of African mammals.
The publication is open access and can be viewed here: https://www.cell.com/iscience/fulltext/S2589-0042(23)01721-2#%20