Members of the palaeontology unit focus their research on the correlation between global climate change and the transformation of terrestrial ecosystems during the Plio-Pleistocene in relation to the various phases of human dispersals. The aim is to provide clues into the ecological context of human settlements. The palaeontology research unit focuses on the study of vertebrate remains including small and large mammals, amphibians and reptiles. The unit has two main objectives:
- Evolution of Plio-Pleistocene mammals: Through the study of speciation, adaptation, and dispersal events, we provide data to establish the chronological framework in which hominids evolved and dispersed. Mammals, and specifically rodents, allow for a high level of temporal resolution and consequently, they are good chronological indicators for proposing the relative dating of archaeological sites. These chronological events can be correlated with hominid origin and extinction patterns, as well as with human dispersals and cultural innovations.
- Palaeoecology: Fossil remains of mammals, amphibians and reptiles are indirect evidence of ancient environments. We use these proxies to reconstruct the palaeoenvironments in which hominids lived, and their changes through time. We also study the interactions between animals and their environment, such as their dietary behaviour, their responses to environmental changes, and the competition between species (hominids-carnivores in particular).