Mio-Pliocene mammals from the Middle Awash, Ethiopia

Yohannes Haile-Selassie, Giday Woldegabriel, Tim D. White, Raymond L. Bernor, David Degusta, Paul R. Renne, William K. Hart, Elisabeth Vrba, Ambrose Stanley, F. C. Howell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


The Middle Awash paleontological study area, located in the Afar Rift of Ethiopia, has yielded fossils spanning the last six million years. The geology and geochronology of the Mio-Pliocene sites of the study area have been refined and a reliable chronostratigraphy has been established by 40Ar/ 39Ar radiometric dating. The latest Miocene Adu-Asa Formation is divided into four members distinguished from each other by silicic and basaltic tuff marker horizons, most of which are dated basaltic tuffs. Radiometric dating has constrained the age of the Adu-Asa Formation to between 5.2-5.8 Ma. These dates are also supported by paleomagnetic results and biochronology. More than 2,000 fossil specimens were collected from the Adu-Asa Formation between 1992 and 2000. These fossils document 64 mammalian species belonging to 32 genera, 23 families, and 8 orders. This assemblage includes a number of new taxa. Included in the assemblage are First and Last Appearance Datums (FADs and LADs) of some groups, including the earliest record of the hominid genus Ardipithecus . Most of the taxa indicate a predominance of mesic and wooded habitat during the deposition of the Adu-Asa Formation. In these deposits, colobines, viverrids, mustelids, bovines, boselaphines, and tragelaphines are abundant, whereas alcelaphines are absent. Quantitative analyses of biogeographic relationships of the Middle Awash Late Miocene (MALM) mammalian fauna indicate stronger relationships with other African sites than with faunas from Eurasian sites. The MALM deposits have generated a critical dataset for analytic work on past environments, biogeographic relationships, and African vertebrate evolution. Moreover, the geographic position of the Middle Awash, coupled with its precise calibration and chronological span, make it a key section for interpreting latest Miocene faunal interchanges between Africa and Eurasia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)536-552
Number of pages17
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Ethiopia
  • Geology
  • Mammals
  • Middle Awash
  • Miocene
  • Paleontology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Palaeontology
  • Space and Planetary Science


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