An examination of feeding ecology in Pleistocene proboscideans from southern China (Sinomastodon, Stegodon, Elephas), by means of dental microwear texture analysis

Hanwen Zhang, Yuan Wang, Christine M Janis, Robert Goodall, Mark A. Purnell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)
359 Downloads (Pure)


It has long been thought that environmental perturbations were the key driving force behind the succession of three distinct mammal faunas in the Pleistocene Ailuropoda-Stegodon faunal complex (sensu lato) of South China: the lower Pleistocene Gigantopithecus-Sinomastodon fauna, the middle Pleistocene Ailuropoda-Stegodon fauna (sensu stricto) and the upper Pleistocene Homo-Elephas fauna. Here, we apply three-dimensional dental microwear texture analysis (DMTA) to three characteristic fossil proboscideans from these mammal faunas to provide preliminary tests for hypotheses of trophic ecology. Despite a few methodological caveats, this study demonstrates the potential of DMTA for understanding the diets of fossil proboscideans. The texture of microwear in Sinomastodon and Stegodon are more reflective of browsing, whereas that of Elephas is suggestive of mixed feeding. The results suggest a more complex process of Pleistocene faunal turnovers in South China. Rather than a unidirectional trend of climate-driven environmental deterioration, biotic factors might have played a more substantial role than previously thought.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-70
Number of pages11
JournalQuaternary International
Early online date26 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jul 2017


  • Pleistocene proboscideans
  • South China
  • DMTA
  • microwear
  • feeding ecology

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