(Credit: Terry Harrison)

Terry Harrison is co-director, with Amandus Kwekason (National Museum of Tanzania), of a long-term field project at Laetoli and other sites on the Eyasi Plateau in northern Tanzania.  Laetoli, one of the most important paleontological and paleoanthropological localities in Africa, is renowned for the recovery of fossil remains of early hominins belonging to Australopithecus afarensis and for the remarkable trails of hominin footprints.  In addition, the faunas from the Upper Laetolil Beds (3.63-3.85 million years old) and Upper Ndolanya Beds (2.66 million years old) are from time periods that are generally poorly represented at other paleontological sites in East Africa. Fossils from these stratigraphic units provide important insights into the faunal and floral diversity during the Pliocene, and they serve as reliably dated reference faunas for comparison with other Plio-Pleistocene sites in Africa. Therefore, Laetoli provides key evidence for interpreting the diversity of hominin habitat preferences and for understanding ecological changes in East Africa from 5-2 million years ago. The research effort at Laetoli involves collaboration between more than 50 scientists from a dozen countries who specialize in geology, geochronology, vertebrate paleontology, ichnology, paleobotany, zoology, botany, and ecology. The main goals of the project are to recover additional fossil hominin specimens and to obtain more detailed contextual information on the paleontology, geology, dating, and paleoecology. Additional finds of Australopithecus afarensis specimens from the Upper Laetolil Beds have contributed new information on the morphology, variation, and evolutionary status of this species.  The team has also recovered fossil hominins for the first time from the Upper Ndolanya Beds.  These include the first specimen of Paranthropus aethiopicus to be recovered from outside the Turkana Basin, and one of the oldest securely dated specimens definitively attributable to this taxon. 

 

Selected recent publications

Harrison, T. 2017. The paleoecology of the Upper Ndolanya Beds, Laetoli, Tanzania, and its implications for hominin evolution, in A. Marom & E. Hovers (Eds.) Human Paleontology and Prehistory: Contributions in Honor of Yoel Rak, pp. 31-44. Springer, Dordrecht.

Su, D. & Harrison, T. 2015. The paleoecology of the Upper Laetolil Beds, Laetoli, Tanzania: A review and synthesisJournal of African Earth Sciences 101: 405-419.

Harrison, T. 2011.  Laetoli revisited: Renewed palaeontological and geological investigations at localities on the Eyasi Plateau in northern Tanzania, in T. Harrison (Ed.) Paleontology and Geology of Laetoli: Human Evolution in Context.  Volume 1: Geology, Geochronology, Paleoecology and Paleoenvironment, pp. 1-15.  Dordrecht: Springer.

Ditchfield, P. & Harrison, T. 2011. Sedimentology, lithostratigraphy and depositional history of the Laetoli area, in T. Harrison (Ed.) Paleontology and Geology of Laetoli: Human Evolution in Context.  Volume 1:  Geology, Geochronology, Paleoecology and Paleoenvironment, pp. 47-76. Dordrecht: Springer.

Harrison, T. & Kweka, A. 2011. Paleontological localities on the Eyasi Plateau, including Laetoli, in T. Harrison (Ed.) Paleontology and Geology of Laetoli: Human Evolution in Context.  Volume 1:  Geology, Geochronology, Paleoecology and Paleoenvironment, pp. 17-45.  Dordrecht: Springer.

Harrison, T. 2011. Hominins from the Upper Laetolil and Upper Ndolanya Beds, Laetoli, in T. Harrison (Ed.) Paleontology and Geology of Laetoli: Human Evolution in Context.  Volume 2:  Fossil Hominins and the Associated Fauna, pp. 141-188.  Dordrecht: Springer.

Harrison, T. (Ed.) 2011. Paleontology and Geology of Laetoli, Tanzania: Human Evolution in Context. Volume 1: Geology, Geochronology, Paleoecology and Paleoenvironment. Dordrecht: Springer.

Harrison, T. (Ed.) 2011. Paleontology and Geology of Laetoli, Tanzania: Human Evolution in Context. Volume 2: Fossil Hominins and the Associated Fauna. Dordrecht: Springer.

Su, D. & Harrison, T. 2008. Ecological implications of the relative rarity of fossil hominins at Laetoli.  Journal of Human Evolution 55: 672-681.

Su, D.F. & Harrison, T. 2007. The paleoecology of the Upper Laetolil Beds at Laetoli: A reconsideration of the large mammal evidence, in R. Bobe, Z. Alemseged, & A.K. Behrensmeyer (Eds.) Hominin Environments in the East African Pliocene: An Assessment of the Faunal Evidence, pp. 279-313. Dordrecht: Springer.

Kingston, J.D. & Harrison, T. 2007. Isotopic dietary reconstructions of Pliocene herbivores at Laetoli: Implications for hominin paleoecologyPalaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 243: 272-306.