Sequence of mammalian fossils, including hominoid teeth, from the Bubing Basin caves, South China

Wei Wang, Richard Potts, Yuan Baoyin, Weiwen Huang, Hai Cheng, R. Lawrence Edwards, Peter Ditchfield

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103 Scopus citations


A Plio-Pleistocene to Holocene faunal sequence has been recovered from four carefully excavated caves in the Bubing Basin, adjacent to the larger Bose Basin of South China. The caves vary in elevation; we suggest that the higher caves were formed and filled with sediments prior to the lower caves. The highest deposits, which are from Mohui Cave, contain hominoid teeth and other fossilized remains of mammalian taxa most similar to late Pliocene and early Pleistocene faunas. Wuyun Cave (∼50 m lower in elevation than Mohui) contains a late middle Pleistocene fauna, which is supported by U-series age constraints from 350 to 200 ka. Lower Pubu Cave (∼23 m below Wuyun) is assigned to the late Pleistocene, while the Cunkong Cave (the lowest, ∼2 m lower elevation than Lower Pubu) preserves a Holocene fauna. The four faunal assemblages indicate species-level changes in Ailuropoda, Stegodon, and Sus, the appearance of Elephas, the local disappearance of Stegodon, and the migration of Equus hemionus to South China. These initial results of our work call into question the continued value of the Stegodon/Ailuropoda Fauna, a category long used to characterize the Pleistocene faunas of South China. Excavation of karstic caves of varying elevation within the basins of South China holds promise for defining local sequences of mammalian fossils that can be used to investigate faunal variations related to climate change, biogeographic events, and evolutionary change over the past two million years. Stable isotopic analysis of a small sample of mammalian teeth from Bubing Basin caves is consistent with 100% C3 vegetation in the Bubing/Bose region, with certain δ13C values consistent with a canopied woodland or forest. A preliminary assessment of the hominoid teeth indicates the presence of diverse molar and premolar morphologies including dental remains of Gigantopithecus blacki and a sample with similarities to the teeth reported from Longgupo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)370-379
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Human Evolution
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2007

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank J.Y. Mo, Z.T. Huang, G.J. Chen, Y.F. Chen, H.Y. Wu, and C.L. Huang from the Natural History Museum of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, F. Tian from Tiandong Museum, and T. Li from China University of Geoscience for their participation in the excavation. We thank Z.T. Guo for scientific suggestions, Jennifer Clark for assistance in preparing the manuscript, and Susan Antón, John Kappelman, and two anonymous reviewers for comments that substantially improved the manuscript. This research has been supported by funds from the National Natural Science Foundation of China grant 40163001, the Emergency Excavation Fund from the National Cultural Relic Bureau of China, the U.S. National Science Foundation grant BCS 0218511 (HOMINID program), and the Smithsonian Institution's Human Origins Program.


  • Bose
  • Fauna
  • Gigantopithecus
  • Mohui
  • Stable isotopes
  • Stegodon/Ailuropoda Fauna
  • U-series dating


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