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Oldest African savanna identified.

Oldest African savanna identified

An analysis of fossil soils and grasses at a site in southwestern Kenya demonstrates that extensive savannas -- the habitats of early human ancestors--have existed in East Africa for at least the past 14 million years, emerging long before the evolutionary split of apes and hominids. This is the oldest known savanna, or "wooded grassland," in Africa, report geologist Gregory J. Retallack of the University of Oregon in Eugene and his colleagues.

The researchers chemically analyzed fossilized soils at the Kenyan site and compared microscopic details of fossil grasses with those of modern East African grasses. They describe their findings in the March 16 SCIENCE.

A wooded grassland contains dry, grassy vegetation; 10 to 40 percent of it is covered by trees. Previous excavations have indicated this ancient savanna supported more abundant and diverse species of antelope than known earlier in Africa.
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Publication:Science News
Date:Mar 24, 1990
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