Cosmogenic nuclide dating of Sahelanthropus tchadensis and Australopithecus bahrelghazali: Mio-Pliocene hominids from Chad
Ages were determined at two hominid localities from the Chad Basin in the Djurab Desert (Northern Chad). In the Koro Toro fossiliferous area, KT 12 locality (16°00′N, 18°53′E) was the site of discovery of Australopithecus bahrelghazali (Abel) and in the Toros-Menalla fossiliferous area, TM 266 locality (16°15′N, 17°29′E) was the site of discovery of Sahelanthropus tchadensis (Toumaï). At both localities, the evolutive degree of the associated fossil mammal assemblages allowed a biochronological estimation of the hominid remains: early Pliocene (3-3.5 Ma) at KT 12 and late Miocene (≈7 Ma) at TM 266. Atmospheric 10Be, a cosmogenic nuclide, was used to quasicontinuously date these sedimentary units. The authigenic 10Be/9Be dating of a pelite relic within the sedimentary level containing Abel yields an age of 3.58 ± 0.27 Ma that points to the contemporaneity of Australopithecus bahrelghazali (Abel) with Australopithecus afarensis (Lucy). The 28 10Be/9Be ages obtained within the anthracotheriid unit containing Toumaï bracket, by absolute dating, the age of Sahelanthropus tchadensis to lie between 6.8 and 7.2 Ma. This chronological constraint is an important cornerstone both for establishing the earliest stages of hominid evolution and for new calibrations of the molecular clock.