- The Paleontological Society
The floral community along South Africa's southwest coast today is dominated by shrubby strandveld, renosterveld, and coastal fynbos vegetation. The grass family (Poaceae), represented primarily by C3 taxa, is scarce by comparison. Nevertheless, grass has a long history along this coast, as indicated by the presence of ∼5-million-year-old C3 grass pollen and phytoliths in sediments at the fossil locality of Langebaanweg E Quarry. Because the pollen and phytoliths of other plant families, including fynbos, have also been found, it has been difficult to determine whether grass was scarce or abundant in this environment. In order to shed light on this issue, I analyzed the dental mesowear of the E Quarry bovids. Results indicate that only one (Simatherium demissum) of seven analyzed species was a grazer. These compare well with the results of a microwear texture analysis, which indicate that none of the seven analyzed species were obligate grazers. These two studies point strongly toward a heavily wooded environment and not one that was dominated by grass. Although a conventional dental microwear analysis did identify three out of seven E Quarry bovid species as grazers (Bed3aN Damalacra, Kobus subdolus, and S. demissum), only S. demissum probably actually was a grazer. I suggest that the grazer signal exhibited by the other two bovid samples indicate that these species were taking advantage of a spike in grass abundance, probably during the winter growth season.