EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Simulating climate effects on archaic human habitats and species successions

Axel Timmermann1, Kyungsook Yun1, Pasquale Raia2, Christoph Zollikofer3, Marcia Ponce de Leon3, Matteo Willeit4, Andrey Ganopolski4, Elke Zeller1, Jiaoyang Ruan1, and Elke Zeller1
Axel Timmermann et al.
  • 1Center for Climate Physics, Institute for Basic Science, Busan, South Kore
  • 2DiSTAR, Università di Napoli Federico II, Monte Sant’Angelo, Napoli, Italy
  • 3Anthropological Institute, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
  • 4Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Potsdam, Germany

It has previously been suggested that climate shifts during the last 2 million years played an important role in the evolution of our genus Homo. However, quantifying this linkage has remained challenging. Here we use an unprecedented transient Pleistocene Coupled General Circulation model simulation in combination with an extensive compilation of fossil and archaeological records, to study the spatio-temporal habitat suitability of five hominin species over the past 2 million years. We show that astronomically-forced changes in temperature, rainfall and terrestrial net primary production had a major impact on their observed distributions. During the early Pleistocene hominins primarily settled in environments with weak orbital-scale climate variability. This behaviour changed drastically after the mid-Pleistocene-transition when archaic humans became global wanderers who adapted to a wide range of spatial climatic gradients, which increased  the likelihood for habitat overlap and cladogenic transitions. Our robust numerical simulations of climate-induced habitat changes provide a novel framework to test hypotheses on our human origin.

How to cite: Timmermann, A., Yun, K., Raia, P., Zollikofer, C., Ponce de Leon, M., Willeit, M., Ganopolski, A., Zeller, E., Ruan, J., and Zeller, E.: Simulating climate effects on archaic human habitats and species successions, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-2707,, 2022.