Acta Anthropologica Sinica ›› 2021, Vol. 40 ›› Issue (05): 879-887.doi: 10.16359/j.cnki.cn11-1963/q.2020.0026

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

A study of pollen and fungal spores extracted from the feces of domestic herbivores in China and their implications for human behavior

ZHANG Yaping1,2, ZHAO Keliang1,2,3(), ZHOU Xinying1,2,3, YANG Qingjiang1,2, JIA Weiming4,5, LI Xiaoqiang1,2,3   

  1. 1. Key Laboratory of Vertebrate Evolution and Human Origins of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100044
    2. University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049
    3. CAS Center for Excellence in Life and Paleoenvironment, Beijing 100044
    4. Department of Archaeology, China Studies Centre, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia
    5. School of History and Culture, Henan University, Kaifeng 475001
  • Received:2020-03-01 Revised:2020-04-30 Online:2021-10-15 Published:2021-10-15
  • Contact: ZHAO Keliang


It has been demonstrated that plant microfossils in the coprolites unearthed from archaeological sites are important materials for reconstructing past ecologies and environments as well as human activities. However, the palynological assemblages of animals’ coprolites that reflects human behavior of feeding and grazing are still poorly understood. Here we present the results of a study of the major pollen and fungal spore types found in the feces of six common domestic herbivores in China: goat (Capra aegagrus), sheep (Ovis aries), cattle (Bos taurus), camel (Camelus sp.), yak (Bos grunniens), and horse (Equus caballus). A study of surface soil samples in proximity to a sheepfold was also conducted to evaluate the influence of factors affecting the transmission of coprophilous fungal spores. The pollen characteristics of the feces include overall low taxonomic abundance and a high proportion of just a few pollen types, such as those of the Poaceae and Chenopodiaceae, which are affected by human activities. The main fungal spore types detected in domestic herbivore feces include the genera Sporormiella, Sodaria, Pleospora, Coniochaeta, Thecaphora and Dictyosporium. The distribution of fungal spores is apparently affected by the range of the animals, making it possible to use coprophilous spores (e.g., Sporormiella) to reconstruct the pastoral and animal breeding activities of ancient humans.

Key words: goat, sheep, fungal spores, Sporormiella, paleoecology

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