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RESEARCH INTERESTS

primate diet

primate palaeoecology

human evolution

APPOINTMENTS

EDUCATION

Departmental Lecturer

 

Stipendiary Lecturer

St Hugh's College

2012 PhD Biological Anthropology

University of Cambridge

Caroline Phillips

BIOGRAPHY

20 YEARS' EXPERIENCE STUDYING PRIMATES ACROSS AFRICA

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My research focus  is to establish bioavailability of food resources within the home range of palaeotropical primates to understand both food selection choices and resource utilisation by our relatives, and ultimately to provide insight into their dietary adaptation.

 

I also use primates as modern analogues to explore  dietary adaptation of early hominins and key selection pressures that drove ecological dominance in later hominins.

 

I apply a palaeoecological approach through the analyses of both phytoliths and stable isotopes and reconstruct modern environments inhabited by extant primates and palaeoenvironments of hominin ancestors to draw parallel inferences about resource utilisation  by early ancestors.

CURRENT RESEARCH

 

QUESTIONS

  1. How can we refine interpretations and understanding of palaeoenvironments?

  2. What are the efficacy and limitations of using stable isotopes and phytoliths to do so?

  3. What food resources were bioavailable to hominins 2-4Ma?

PROJECTS

FOOD BIOAVAILABILITY PAPIO

Stable isotope, phytolith, nutritional landscapes>

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This project focuses on establishing the bioavailability of foods for extant primates. To achieve this, we will continue environmental and dietary reconstruction work through phytolith and stable isotope analyses of modern plants and soils and primate faeces, but will also incorporate nutritional and genetic data on select food resources. Understanding of resource selection and food choice is enhanced with such data, and we will use it also to ascertain if select foods are eaten excessively by study-subjects in order to access particular nutrients.

 

To do so, we will collect samples in the home range of baboons (Papio) at Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique, a primate that inhabits environments across Africa and has provided an invaluable perspective for the modelling of human ancestral diet. In Gorongosa, baboon troops live in either closed, wooded environments or open floodplain and bushland, allowing a contrast study of resource exploitation by this primate across a mosaic of habitats. This work will broaden perspectives to address food resource abundance, availability and selection by primates and human ancestors.

Collaborators

Susana Carvalho, René Bobe and other members of the Paleo-Primate Project, Robert Pringle, Arjun Potter, Matthew Hutchinson of the Pringle Lab, Marion Bamford

CRACKING THE PUZZLE

Phytoliths and nut-cracking >

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Study globular echinate phytoliths produced by select palm trees where their nuts are accessed by primates as a highly calorific resource

 

Both humans and other primates use a hammer and anvil to crack open the nut and work has so far explored phytolith productivity at active and non-active nut-cracking sites used by the chimpanzees of Bossou Forest, Guinea (Phillips et al. in prep). Future work will extend to other sites where nuts are cracked open by other primates.

Collaborators: Katerina Almeida-Warren, Gen Yamakoshi, John WK Harris, Marion Bamford

FOOD AVAILABILITY PAN

Stable isotope & phytolith landscapes>

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This work focuses on evaluating the efficacy and limitations of phytolith and stable isotope analyses to reconstruct environments and diets.  For phytolith work, we place findings in context of resource availability and exploitation by extant fauna to then model for paleoenvironments and resource availability of hominins 2-4Ma.

 

Modern plant and soil samples are being analysed to reconstruct the home ranges of Pan troglodytes communities that inhabit montane and savannah environments  respectively. Already, contrasts in phytoliths across different habitats were established in the montane environment, but differentiating C3 and C4 grass phytolith morphotypes between habitats across the savannah environment remains a challenge (Phillips et al. in prep). 

Collaborators: Kathelijne Koops, Marion Bamford, Gen Yamakoshi, Tamsin O'Connell, Alex Piel, Fiona Stewart, Elizabeth Fillion

FORGOTTEN FAUNIVORY

Stable isotope & ape insectivory>

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Study primate entomophagy using stable isotopes

Dorylus ants are a resource that is little considered for hominin entomophagy, despite their ancient lineage and widespread distribution across Africa. Findings will be used to provide an invaluable parameterisation dataset for the evaluation of hominin entomophagy based on existing and future fossil evidence. Work on samples from Dorylus ants eaten by chimpanzees at Nimba Mountains, Guinea and their faeces are underway to determine nitrogen stable isotope values (δ15N). Future work will expand and contrast with other insects at other chimpanzee sites.

Collaborators: Kathelijne Koops, Marion Bamford, Gen Yamakoshi, Tamsin O'Connell, Caspar Schöning, Alejandra Pascual-Garrido

DIET HADZA

Phytolith food wadges>

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Food wadges collected from various individuals of the Hadza in Tanzania in the 80s will be analysed to determine to phytolith morphotypes and productivity of select underground storage organs (USOs) and what this might reveal for dietary reconstructions of this modern human society and also to model USO consumption by early hominins

 

These food wadges were collected in the 1980s by Glynn Issac  

Collaborators: Andrea Wiley, Michael Wasserman, Jeanne Sept

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PUBLICATIONS

Schoeninger MJ, McGrew WC, Phillips CA. 2019. Archaeological implications of diet in non-human primates.  In: The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of Diet. Lee-Thorp J, Katzenburg A (Eds), DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199694013.013.28.

 

Phillips C, Woolley C, Mann D, McGrew W.  2018. Disappearance rate of chimpanzee scats: Implications for census work on Pan troglodytes. African Journal of Ecology, DOI: 10.1111/aje.12501.

Phillips CA, Wrangham RW, McGrew WC. 2017. Non-dietary analytical features of chimpanzee scats. Primates. DOI 10.1007/s10329-017-0606-y.

Phillips CA, O’Connell T. 2016. Fecal carbon and nitrogen isotopic analysis as an indicator of diet in Kanyawara chimpanzees, Kibale National Park, Uganda. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, DOI 10.1002/ajpa.23073.

McGrew WC, Matsumoto T, Nakamura M, Phillips CA. Stewart FA. 2014. Experimental primate archaeology: Detecting stone handling by Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata). Lithic Technology, 39:113-121.

Phillips C, Lancelotti C. 2014. Chimpanzee diet: Phytolithic analysis of feces. American Journal of Primatology, 76: 757-773.

Phillips CA, McGrew WC. 2014. Macroscopic inspection of ape feces:  What’s in a quantification method? American Journal of Primatology. 76: 539-550.

Phillips CA, McGrew WC. 2013. Identifying species in chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) faeces: A methodological lost cause? International Journal of Primatology. 34:792-807.

McGrew WC, Marchant LF, Phillips CA. 2009. Standardised protocol for faecal analysis. Primates. 50, 363-366.

TEACHING MATTERS

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MSC COGNITIVE AND EVOLUTIONARY ANTHROPOLOGY

BA HUMAN SCIENCES

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Primate Behaviour and Evolution

Behaviour and its Evolution
The Human-Primate Interface: Past and Present

STIPENDIARY LECTURER IN BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES, ST HUGH'S COLLEGE

VISITING STUDENTS UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD

Diversity of Life

Ecology and Evolution

Cognition and Culture

Palaeoecology

Humans in Perspectives

CONTACT

 

Primate Models for Behavioural Evolution Lab

School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography

University of Oxford

64 Banbury Road

Oxford OX2 6PN

 

+44 (0) 1865 612373

caroline.phillips@anthro.ox.ac.uk

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